Hot & Sour Soup

IMG_8778One of our family’s favourite soups is Hot & Sour Soup, slightly spicy, sweet & sour with just a few ingredients; this is perfect for a light meal. There are some additions that do make it more authentic, but even this very basic version makes for a very happy meal. I can remember many busy school nights when this was served, always leaving us satisfied! Continue reading

Poultry Gravy (do ahead, or for when you just want some)

IMG_8597Sometimes it’s just way easier to do something ahead of time.

Every “gather-round-the-table” celebration is more enjoyable if the tasks are shared between several, and it isn’t all done “just before”. When a turkey is pulled from the oven, and set to rest on its cutting board, there are usually other pots simmering, and people talking & visiting. So here’s a tip.

Make your gravy ahead of time. Any juices from your bird can be set in the fridge for the next day or two, making it easy to remove any fat. Then the juices can be frozen, ready for the next time you want gravy. The only downside to this is that you need to have kept those juices for that time.

Here’s a do-ahead gravy that is started from scratch, using some bits of poultry like wings, neck, or even chopped up legs. You can make as much as you want on a day that you pick.

For this year’s Thanksgiving feast, the turkey, stuffing, and three side dishes will be brought by others, leaving me to do a couple of pies, cranberry sauce, potatoes & gravy. As ours truly is the “home-that-gathers”, I am looking forward to the happy chatter and laughter that I am so very thankful for.IMG_8594

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Oxtail Soup


IMG_5318 The first time we went in to pick up beef from the butcher, he asked if we’d like the licker, the flicker, or the ticker.  We stood looking at him like a couple of newbies.  I’m not sure if he actually rolled his eyes, but probably somewhere in his head he was.

The tongue, the tail, or the heart.  Not having had much experience with any of them, we opted for the least embarassing, and said, “yes please.”

So started my fascination with slow braising of the most intensely flavoured muscle meat that a beef animal has to offer.  These aren’t actually organs, they are constantly used muscles, tough because of their use.  They pump, lick, help to swallow, and flick away flies.

The more a muscle is used, the more flavour it has.  The trick is how to get that flavour in an accessible way. In other words, without much chewing!

This soup is one of my all time favourites.  I think I was first introduced to it in a red & white labelled can.  Now it is made once or twice a year (there’s only one tail per animal).  Cook the meat, creating the stock, one day; put together the soup the next.  Take your time, no one is expecting you to rush while making a pot of soup.  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

Risotto with Shrimp & Peas

IMG_2653Risotto is not a finicky dish to make.  Picture yourself in a large Italian farmhouse kitchen, with a big apron tied firmly around your middle.  Put a couple of pins in your hair to keep things neat.  The stove has been on most of the day while you’re making bread.  You have a large pot on the back burner with fresh chicken stock, never wasting anything that you’ve either grown or carefully purchased in the market.  Family members have come and gone, chatting as they go about their chores.  During this time you’ve been sautéing onions, adding rice and then slowly have added spoonfuls of the chicken stock with a few splashes of wine, while you stir and talk.  When the family gathers round, you add in some grated hard cheese, and maybe some tender vegetables with a knob of butter.  Without paying too much attention, you’ve created a beautiful glossy dish of risotto, warm and creamy, one of the best comfort foods.

This is a social dish – prepare your ingredients before hand, and enjoy a glass of wine while you cook and visit.  Don’t let it be pretentious.  When it’s ready, serve it simply.  The rest of the meal can be served after. Continue reading