Roast Beef Tenderloin with Herbs & Garlic

IMG_9090Tenderloin of beef is a perfect go-to roast for special occasions. It is very easy to prepare, takes little time to roast, and carves beautifully. Yes, it is expensive, but when reserved for special occasions, is so worth it.

The tenderloin is the most tender of cuts. This muscle runs under the ribs next to the backbone of beef, and gets very little use, so remains tender. Even in an older animal who’s meat might be only be used for minced or stew, we try to reserve the tenderloin, which has amazing flavour, but is still tender. Unfortunately on-the-hoof aged tenderloin is hard to get (unless you raise beef).

The basic principal is that the more exercise a muscle gets, the more flavourful it is. So although very tender, the tenderloin benefits when treated to a rub or paste before roasting. Buy a roast that has had its fat and silver skin removed. It will have a long tip at one end, which you’ll be tying back to create a uniformly shaped roast. Continue reading

Focaccia Bread

IMG_6923Once upon a time, I had been invited to join my sister & her partner at Bishop’s for dinner.  It was a lovely late spring day, and I was so excited to be going to one of my favourite chef’s restaurants.  I had no idea just how much that visit would help me in understanding the true art of customer service in the food industry.

As we were seated, I looked around at the beautifully appointed room, with heavy linens, and lovely tableware, but nothing ostentatious.   It felt like I was in someone’s much loved home.  There was quiet chat all around us, with people enjoying the food, their friends, and their surroundings.  Home.

It wasn’t long before John Bishop himself came and joined the three of us for a few minutes at our table.  Pulling out the fourth chair he became one of our group. He already new the other two, but I was a new face.  He found out we lived on a producing farm, and was instantly interested in all aspects of how we raised our animals, how we sold our meat, and so on.  Through the conversation he also learned that I was a caterer. I don’t usually bring this up to “real chefs” as I am untrained, and tend to put chefs on pedestals, of which I will probably never rise to.

After no more than 10 minutes, he was off to run his room.

We ordered dinner, and enjoyed a small amuse bouche he brought to us.  Before we were served our main meal, he came to the table and asked if I would like to come into the kitchens, and see the workings, how it was all set up, and the like.

We moved from station to station looking at sauces simmering, meat being expertly trimmed and cooked, all while there was a very professional but happy energy happening.

Looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, he asked me to follow him out the back door to the alley, as he wanted to show me something.

On the landing of the turn of the stairs, no more than 8 feet square, there was a very homey patio table with an umbrella and 4 or 5 chairs. He was so excited to show me these.  One of his best customers had called only to find that the restaurant was fully booked for the night.  Not to let her down, he gave her an al fresco option.  He’d asked his wife if she would be able to bring their set from their own home (with children helping) to set up a very special dining experience in the alley way for this treasured client.  We sat for a few minutes enjoying the late evening sun, while we both spoke of both our standards of customer service and how feeding people had brought us to these points in our lives.

As we walked back to the dining room, he asked if I would come and spend three days or so in his kitchen in the near future. I would have loved to, and it was a door I should never have let close.  Regrets? Maybe, but at the time I knew my place was on the farm with my family.   All these years later, it still remains my favourite room in Vancouver.

This recipe for focaccia bread is based on a recipe from Bishop’s.

Continue reading

Herb Crusted Pork Roast

IMG_5394When my parents would visit my younger sister and I in our apartment in the late 70’s (returning to the city from their back-to-the-land adventures on Thetis Island) I would try to make a really sumptuous feast at least once during their visit.  I can remember buying a huge pork roast (in reality it was probably no more than four pounds) to serve one night.  I carefully sliced it through almost to the bone, every couple of inches, and stuffed it with nuts, herbs, and dried fruits.  There wasn’t a recipe to follow, it was just an idea I had.  I stuck garlic slices into it, and salt & peppered the fat.  I roasted it on low until the meat could be pulled from the bone.  I still have no idea what cut of pork it was, but its flavour holds fast in my memory.

Pork does so well when treated to a good crust or stuffing, or the both.  This herb & salt mix takes the humble pork butt roast to an amazing centerpiece.  The butt is full of flavour due to the lines of fat that run through it. The fat pulls the flavours in and through it.  Let it sit at room temperature for one hour after covering it with the seasoning.  It will give the pork a chance to take advantage of all you have offered it. Continue reading

Kale & White Bean Soup with Fresh Chorizo & Rosemary

IMG_3396The last day of this season’s Soup’s On program, we served large pots of seemingly never ending turkey vegetable soup to a crowd of friends and neighbours.  So many dropped by to get their last fix of the Soup’s On experience to last them until fall.  When we had served the last tray of sweets and the kitchen was back to its sparkling self, there was a bit of sadness that we wouldn’t be doing this for the next five months.  Of course, there was also feeling of relief as we looked forward to the next five months of living in one of the best places on earth during its summer weather.

However, when I got home that day, with the program’s finances to be balanced and the summary to be written up for our files, for some whacky reason I felt the need to make soup.  I’m sure there’s an analyst out there that could explain this to me.  Maybe it was because I hadn’t done the soup for lunch that day (I had done the baking) and felt that the day was somehow incomplete?

Or perhaps it was because that morning I’d soaked beans thinking that they’d be part of our dinner.  Well, now dinner was going to be soup.  We had a pound of fresh Chorizo sausage from Jollity Farm, and I had recently done a similar version of this for Soup’s On in early March, so started to pull it together as I worked on the accounts.  Multi-tasking doesn’t always work when cooking, but soup is very forgiving.

This so easily becomes a vegetarian soup, just leave out the sausage, and add in ½ t of dried chilies when you’re sautéing the onions.

Enjoy it like it might be the last bowl of soup you have, until the weather changes next fall. Continue reading

Baked Mushroom Risotto

IMG_1170Here it is the beginning of spring and I’m baking a mushroom risotto.  It’s still cold out, although if the sun’s shining while working out in the garden it’s wonderful to feel the heat!  I think that as long as the weather still has us cooking indoors, we can still enjoy a hearty repast.  This dish can be served as a main course, with a few vegetables on the side, or a big crunchy salad.  It also serves well accompanying pork or beef.  I try to serve meat as a component of the meal, not the star attraction.  I think it keeps meals more balanced.  Continue reading