Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

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Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!

Pizza Pockets & Hand Pies

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Following is the recipe for a basic, soft and easy to work with dough.  I used this recipe for making pizza pockets for my granddaughter Sloan’s first week of Grade 1, and then turned leftover dough into meat hand pies for 93 year old Auntie Elsie, who is kind of tired of cooking these days. Leftover dough you say???  Well I didn’t think 8-10 small pizzas would give me enough dough so I doubled the recipe … which yielded 25 pizza pockets, 10 hand meat pies and 1 pizza for our dinner.  Significant yield!!!

Pizza Crust: (makes 8-10 small pizzettas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 4-6 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. Once ready to cook, heat your oven to the highest heat setting (500F for most ovens) and place your pizza stone in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Portion the dough into 8-10 balls and place on a well-floured surface. Using your hands, with your knuckles, (dusted with flour, along with the counter to prevent the dough from sticking) form your pizza crust 15-20 minutes before cooking your pizza on a flat surface dusted with semolina flour until it is nice and thin. Keep stretching it with your hands to make a flat pizza base (it doesn’t have to be round or perfect!).
  8. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, lay your rolled dough on the stone, and add your ingredients ….

If you are using this dough for pizza pockets or hand pies, after step 5 skip to step 7 and form circles of dough.

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For pizza pockets, layer on pizza sauce, your chosen ingredients and cheese, closing the pockets with a fork.  Make sure to prick the top surface with the fork so steam can escape.

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For the meat pies I used an ice cream scoop to get a consistent amount of the meat mixture – centered on the dough, and then brought up the edges to crimp over the middle of the circle.  Brush with beaten egg and poke with a fork.

Bake pizza pockets or meat pies at 400 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

FILLING FOR MEAT PIE

1 onion, minced finely

1 garlic clove, grated

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 small zucchini, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is lightly carmelized, add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, then add zucchini and saute for another few minutes.  Remove from heat and place in bowl.  Add frozen corn and peas.  Return pan to heat and stir in ground beef – cooking until lightly browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add beef to vegetable mixture and season with dried herbs, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  At this point, if you feel like it needs a bit more flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.  Stir well and set in fridge to cool down.  When cool, continue on with forming your hand pies.

These pies are only limited by your imagination – use whatever you feel like to fill the pies, making sure to taste the mixture before filling the dough rounds.  Made in a smaller size they make a great appetizer too.

Lemon, Shrimp & Spinach Pasta

This makes a very quick dinner, fresh and delicious.

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Ingredients
For the lemon oil:
1/2 cup warm extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested (in wide strips)

For the pasta:
1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup sliced zucchini
16 ounces frozen shrimp
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
1 lemon, zested
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces spinach (about 3 packed cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Optional:  1/2 – 1 tsp chile flakes & 1 tbsp butter

 

For the lemon oil:
Combine the olive oil and the lemon zest in a small bowl and reserve.
For the pasta:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid.
Meanwhile, in a large, heavy skillet warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini and saute until just tender.  Add the shrimp and cook until pink, about 5 minutes. Add the cooked linguine, lemon juice, lemon zest, chile flakes, butter, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Turn off the heat and add the spinach.  Using a mesh sieve, strain the lemon zest out of the reserved lemon olive oil and add the oil to the pasta. The zest can be discarded. Add some of the cooking water to desired consistency. Add the chopped parsley to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately. (dusted with parmesan if you like)

Lamb Meatballs with Tomato Olive Sauce and Mint

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These meatballs are tender and delicious – the sauce is rich and that mint sauce is a perfect taste to brighten it all up. If you aren’t a big fan of lamb, then use minced pork.

You could buy lamb merguez sausage to make these meatballs, but if that isn’t available to you, this is an easy fix and tastes amazing.

1 pound lean ground lamb

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp turmeric

3 cloves minced garlic

2 tbsp harissa

1 tbsp tomato sauce

Grind salt and fennel together until smooth, then add the rest of the spices and stir together.  Add in garlic, harissa and tomato sauce to make a paste.  Lightly toss paste with ground lamb, until well blended.

For the best flavour, allow to sit over night but they are great if made into meatballs right away too.

Form balls about 1″ in diameter.  Heat oil until shimmering, then cook meatballs until just crispy on the outside and

 

Meanwhile ….. on roasting pan in moderate oven (375) toss in olive oil:

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves

1/2 cup black olives

 

Roast until vegetables are tender, and blend with enough olive oil to make a smooth sauce.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Toss meatballs with tomato sauce and serve with mint sauce.

Mint Sauce

Blend fresh mint leaves with a drizzle of honey, freshly squeezed lemon and olive oil just until smooth – season to taste with salt.

Beef Short Ribs in Cinnamon Red Wine Curry

Be prepared for the whole house to smell amazing for a couple of days after you prepare this specialty. I particularly love it in the fall or winter when it also seems to help warm the house….

Don’t be alarmed by what may look like a lengthy list of ingredients, most are items in the pantry anyway, and if not – try out something new and find more ways to use it.

Topped with fresh, fragrant cilantro this rich curry will make you feel like a super star.

Topped with fresh, fragrant cilantro this rich curry will make you feel like a super star.

2 tbsp ghee (or butter (ghee is clarified butter)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 large onions, finely diced (you should get about 2 cups)
10 cloves garlic (yes, really)
1 cup pureed fresh tomatoes (in the winter feel free to use canned)
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds
1 1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tbsp mexican chili powder
1 whole piece cinnamon bark (about 3″ long)
5 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup red wine (make sure to use one you would be happy to drink!)
2 1/2 pounds beef short ribs

Use a large pot for this, with a heavy bottom.

Melt ghee or butter on medium heat. Once melted add oil and cumin seeds. Let seeds sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add onions. (Your house smells amazing already, doesn’t it?)

Take your time with the onions – part of the rich flavour in this dish is from allowing the onions to get nice and browned, slowly. Once they are a rich gold colour add the garlic and sauté until the garlic is a golden brown also. The longer the onions spend slowly getting dark the more rich flavour the curry will have.

Take your time and allow these onions to deepen in colour and caramelize enough to bring out their sweetness.

Take your time and allow these onions to deepen in colour and caramelize enough to bring out their sweetness.

Reduce the heat to low and add tomatoes, fenugreek, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, chili and cinnamon bark. Stir well and slowly increase heat to medium. Allow to cook until the ghee starts to separate from the tomato mixture (you will notice pockets of clear liquid on top).

While your onions are happily cooking, organize the rest of the ingredients so that you are ready to add them all at once - makes everything so much easier.

While your onions are happily cooking, organize the rest of the ingredients so that you are ready to add them all at once – makes everything so much easier.

Stir in red wine and chicken stock – bring to a boil. Allow to cook, stirring enough so that it doesn’t stick, until once again the ghee separates from the mixture.

Add short ribs, stir, cover and allow to simmer for about 4 hours.

NOTE – the cinnamon is meant to be subtle in this recipe … just a hint of it. While it is cooking, if you notice a strong cinnamon scent, remove it from curry, it has done the job.

At this point, I have also put the curry into the oven and just forgot about it for that time, while the house simply became more inviting …

Professional chefs and equipment probably get this ready for the simmer in 20-30 minutes, but it always takes me an hour to develop that colour in the onions and complete the prep stage.

Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with basmati rice. A perfect dish to accompany this? My roasted tandoori cauliflower with mint & cilantro sauce.

For an impressive presentation, roast the cauliflower whole with the cilantro & mint sauce to serve.  If you want the cauliflower to roast quicker, and really just want to get it on the table, simply cut cauliflower into florets and roast.  Florets may take about 20-30 minutes to roast depending on the size.  Only cook them long enough to be fork tender.

For an impressive presentation, roast the cauliflower whole with the cilantro & mint sauce to serve. If you want the cauliflower to roast quicker, and really just want to get it on the table, simply cut cauliflower into florets and roast. Florets may take about 20-30 minutes to roast depending on the size. Only cook them long enough to be fork tender.

This curry is beyond delicious. If you want to make it a vegetarian dish it is easy enough to do – use all vegetable oil to sauté the onions and replace chicken stock with vegetable stock. When it comes time to nestle the short ribs into the stock just substitute ribs with any of your favourite vegetables. If you are using root vegetables that take a long time to cook go ahead and put them into the curry early. If using vegetables that take less time, put them in the curry closer to the end of the cooking time.

BBQ Beef Brisket Slow Cooker Style

If you have the time then a beef brisket should be cooked in a smoker, low and ever so slow ….. 10 hours minimum. If, however, that doesn’t work for you, and for lots of us at times it just doesn’t. Try this … perhaps not as authentic, but absolutely delicious.

Combine in slow cooker:
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 chipotles in adobo sauce – finely chopped
1 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Rub the brisket with:
1/4 cup paprika
1 tbsp chile powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 5 lb beef brisket – cut in half width wise.

Place rubbed brisket onto sauce in slow cooker and allow to cook on low for 10 hours.

If you have the time, and ability – allow beef to rest out of the liquid, then grill quickly on each side to get a bit of crunchy texture. Slice and return to sauce in slow cooker.

Serve on fresh buns with some nice crunchy cole slaw on top.

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork

We have a smoker, so when time and weather permits, we love to do a pork butt roast in the smoker – but let’s be honest, that doesn’t always work. The whole point of a slow cooker is simplicity, and being able to walk away ….. This recipe allows you to do just that, and still enjoy amazing pulled pork flavour.

2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4-6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4-5 pound pork butt roast
1 tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 3″ piece cinnamon stick
1 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 cups barbecue sauce

In slow cooker, place sliced onions and garlic.

Combine the dry ingredients, and give the pork a massage with the seasonings .. after all, it isn’t called a rub for nothing!
(if you want to make things really easy in the morning, rub the pork up the night before and allow those seasonings to penetrate the pork)

Place seasoned pork on top of the onion garlic mixture. Stir chicken stock and barbecue sauce together and pour over pork.

Allow pork to cook on high (6-8 hours) or low (8-10 hours). Remove from cooker, and allow to rest.

Use immersion blender and create sauce out of mixture in cooker – reduce to about half.

Shred pork with 2 forks, and return both pork and sauce to cooker.

Serve on fresh buns with a bit of crunchy cole slaw.

I will update with a photo next time I make this …. with our crowd, before I knew it, the serving was happening and there was no opportunity to take that shot!