lar·der (lärdr)
1. A place, such as a pantry or cellar, where food is stored.
2. A supply of food.

[from Old French lardier, from lard]

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Chicken Soup and Basic Stock

For what it is worth, I am sick with a head cold. Miserable and uncomfortable. My friend, Gerda suggested that I have some chicken soup to help me feel better. I have read that some studies show that there are indeed health benefits (reducing the inflammation of the nasal passages for one) from eating chicken soup. However, in order to make a proper soup one must begin with a good basic stock. This is not optional, but essential if one wants the best product from one's efforts. While I am not feeling well enough to cook, I can share my recipe for chicken soup and guidance to making basic stock.

In order to achieve a superior, good quality stock, as with all food, using the right ingredients is fundamentally important. There are different types of stock including chicken, beef, veal, fish, and vegetable. That is not to imply (nor should one infer) that a good stock requires expensive or hard to source ingredients. Don't be afraid to ask your butcher for bones for your stock. A good stock is born of frugality and economy. The very nature and goodness of stock lies in its humbleness. The secret is to tease, nay, command goodness, richness and flavour from the castoffs of your butcher, cupboards, pantry, and larder. Rather than discard those off-cuts of vegetables, carcasses and bones - I use them to make stock. Add to your stockpot a bouquet garni of fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, and 2-3 bay leaves) from your garden or window box, some freshly cracked black pepper (do not add salt), lots of cold water and set it to boil over a medium flame. Once it comes to the boil, reduce to a very low flame and let it simmer - uncovered and allow the liquid to reduce intensifying the flavours as it does. Fish stock should simmer for 30-40 minutes, vegetable for 45 to 60 minutes, chicken for 4-5 hours, and beef or veal for 6-8 hours. Be patient.

Wait, watch, whiff and your patience will be rewarded with that which is truly wondrous and delicious. Store and keep your stock wisely and it will add luxurious flavour and depth to your soups, sauces and savoury dishes. To start you will need the following utensils:

- a roasting tray (for the vegetables and bones, if any)
- a large stockpot
- a large ladle or perforated cook's spoon (to skim your stock)
- a fine sieve or cheesecloth
- a second pot or large container to receive the strained stock

Basic Stock

Chicken, fish, beef or veal bones (Cook's choice)
Celery including the leaf
Leeks (optional)
Olive oil
Bouquet garni - a string tied mix of parsley, bay leaf, thyme (and sometimes celery stalk)
Black pepper
Tomato paste (only for beef and veal stocks)

Roughly cut 1 bunch of celery, 1 large leek (split length-wise and well washed), 5-6 carrots, and 3 large peeled onions.You will need enough to cover the bottom the roasting tray. Reserve a quarter of 1 onion that you should finely chop along with a handful of chopped leek. If you are making a vegetable stock, you will want to add more vegetables to increase the amount. Try turnips, swedes (rutabagas), bulb fennel, mushrooms or cabbage. Do not use potatoes when making any stock as they will leave you with a pasty, gloppy mess!

If you want a brown stock, you should roast your chicken, beef or veal bones drizzled with olive oil in a hot oven (400F/200C) in a roasting tray for 25-30 minutes. Fish bones should never be roasted, but simply added to the stockpot. I prefer not to roast chicken bones as I like a lighter coloured stock. After you have roasted the bones, add your roughly cut vegetables (drizzled with more olive oil) to the roasting tray and roast a further 30 minutes.

Place your stockpot over a medium flame and add some olive oil. Sauté (or sweat) the reserved diced onion and leeks in the olive oil until translucent. Remove your bones (if any) and roasted vegetables from the oven and add to the stockpot. Be sure to deglaze (déglacer)  the roasting tray using a little wine (white for vegetable, fish, or chicken and red for beef or veal) and add that to the pot. Immediately cover the contents with fresh cold water. Allow the liquid to come slowly to the boil, then lower the temperature to a very low flame or heat and simmer uncovered until reduced by about a third. Add the bouquet garni to the pot and season with black pepper. Continue to simmer until the liquid is reduce to about half of its original volume.

Using a ladle or perforated spoon skim the stock frequently to remove and discard the foamy scum that comes to the surface. When you have finished reducing your stock, strain it through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into another pot or large container. Discard the vegetables and any carcass and bones. Do not be tempted to re-use the vegetables as they have now given up all their flavour and value.

If the stock is not for immediate use, immerse the pot of stock in ice water in your sink before refrigeration. Refrigerating the stock allows you to eliminate as much of the fat as you wish as it will congeal on the surface and can be easily removed. The stock may be conveniently kept in the freezer in smaller plastic containers for future use.

Chicken Soup

2-3 large cuts of chicken (white and dark meat - skin on and on the bone)
1 T. (15ml) Olive oil plus some for drizzling
1 small onion or a large shallot
2-3 stalks of celery
2 medium sized carrots
Basic stock
Salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle a roasting tray with olive oil, add the chicken pieces and toss to coat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and place into a preheated, hot oven (375F/190C) and roast for about 30-35 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to rest.

Peel and dice the onion or shallot. Dice the celery and carrots into bite size pieces, roughly of similar size. Place a large sauce pan (2.5 litre) over a medium flame, add 1T. (15ml) olive oil and then the diced onion or shallot. Sauté until translucent, then add the carrot and sauté just until the carrots start to cook. Next add the diced celery and continue to sauté until the celery is no longer crisp but remains somewhat firm (al dente). Season with salt and pepper. Add enough stock to fill two thirds (2/3) of the pan. Bring to a slow, gentle boil.

Remove the skin from the roasted chicken and discard. Pull the meat from the bones and check that no small bones remain in the cooked flesh. Discard the bones. Add the pulled meat to the pan and heat through. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot in soup bowls and garnish with bread or toasted croutons. Always better the next day, if there is any leftover.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Bea's Damn Cake!

This is a pound cake recipe given to me by my very good friend Bea Mingo. I have called it 'Bea's Damn Cake' as the first several times that I made it the cake was a complete disaster! Now I have been baking a very, very, very long time having started at age 7 under the tutelage of my maternal grandmother Bertha Jones (who knew a thing or two about cake), but I could not for all my experience get this recipe to turn out. That is until I learned the 'secret' by watching my dear friend prepare it for baking. The secret is to beat the heavy batter into submission! That is until the gluten in the flour breaks down sufficiently to result in a cake with the most excellent crumb, texture and flavour. Do not be discouraged if your first attempts fail and you resort to swearing at this recipe (as I did and hence the name)! Below is the recipe for the cake. Once mastered, I promise that you will make it again and again.

1lb (500g) unsalted butter
1lb (500g) powdered (icing) sugar
6 large eggs (fresh as you can find and NOT refrigerated)
3 Cups (500g) cake flour (finely milled)
Flavourings of your choice (use extracts and not essences)

DO NOT PREHEAT OVEN. Cream butter and sugar together using a heavy-duty home or professional [I use a standing mixer] electric beater (whisk) until light and fluffy (about 10 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flavouring of choice. Example: 1/2 teaspoon (tsp) rum extract, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp Almond extract. 1/2 tsp Orange extract (or Orange Blossom Water).

Add flour in thirds, beating after each addition to incorporate well into the batter. After the final portion of flour is incorporated, beat the batter for another 5-8 minutes or until the batter is silky smooth. Pour into a buttered and flour dusted ring or bundt tin and swirl the batter and tamp the tin against the worktop to remove any trapped air bubbles.

Place in a cold oven and bake at 325F (170C) for an hour or until a wooden skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean (dry) of any batter. Let cool in tin on wire rack for ten minutes then turn out of tin onto wire rack and let cool completely. Optional: Dust with powdered (icing) sugar. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Black Pepper Encrusted Pork Tenderloin stuffed with Mint, Garlic and Pecans

I created this recipe one summer in the late 1980's when my dear friend, Phoebe Wantz queried me about a special on pork tenderloins (pork fillet) at a local supermarket. "Great price, she said, but what can you do with it?!" Well, I think that I rose to the challenge when I devised this simple but delicious recipe. It can be prepared on the outdoor grill or in a hot oven indoors. Use fresh ingredients, slice into medallions once roasted and you cannot go wrong. Promise. Keep a long handled wooden spoon nearby as it helps get the stuffing all the way inside the meat. Perfect hot or cold (I like to take it to parties served on fancy crackers)! Now, here is the recipe.

1 Pork Tenderloin (Pork Fillet)
3 Tbs finely chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic crushed, chopped or pressed
Pinch of sea salt
3 Tbs coarsely chopped pecans halves (or walnuts)
Olive oil
Cracked black peppercorns
Sea salt

Boning knife
Long handled wooden spoon
Aluminium foil

Pre-heat oven to 400F/220C, or if using an outdoor grill, start charcoal and burn until coals are red hot. Using a boning knife pierce the centre of the pork 3/4 of the way length-wise (or ask your butcher to do it). Finely chop mint on a wooden board, add crushed and chopped garlic, a pinch of sea salt and chop through the mint. Add shelled pecan halves and again chop into the mint and garlic mixture.

Using the handle of the wooden spoon, work the centre of the pork to increase the pierced opening to the diameter of your index finger. Stuff the mint, garlic and nut mixture into the hole using the handle of the spoon to push the stuffing into the pork until all the mixture is inside.

Place a large sheet of aluminium foil on the worktop and place the stuffed pork onto it. Drizzle the pork with olive oil. Using a mortar and pestle or a pepper mill on a coarse setting, crack the peppercorns and sprinkle over the pork and foil. Roll the pork in the cracked pepper until evenly coated.

Bring the long sides of the foil up around the pork and fold together. Bring up the ends and fold to close. Place directly over hot coals or on a cooking tray in a hot oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK!

Remove and let stand for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and slice into medallions and serve with a summer salad of fresh greens, avocado and spring onions (scallions). May be served cold on fancy crackers. Champagne makes the perfect companion.  Enjoy!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Gary's Garlic & Parmesan Potatoes

This is such an easy dish to prepare, but it will always have your diners asking for more! I have made many variants of this dish over the years, but this one is my favourite. The list of ingredients is without exact measures in most instances, which means that you will have to use your judgment and personal taste to perfect the dish to your liking and standard. It is important to know what this dish is not. It is not a 'potato Dauphinoise' or 'scalloped potatoes' so resist peeling and slicing your potatoes either on a mandoline or by hand. This is a rather rustic dish and reminds me of all those Sunday dinners after church when I was a boy. I hope that you try it and improve upon it, but please try to keep it an honest and modest dish. If you do, you will find that it features as a great accompaniment at many of your best dinners. Now, on to the basic recipe!

1-1/2lbs (750g) New baby potatoes - skin on, washed and roughly quartered
Block or wedge of Parmesan cheese (not a boxed pre-grated variety)
2 Cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped (or use a garlic press)
Butter - about 2 Tbs/30ml
Sprig of fresh thyme (stemmed and chopped)
Sprig of fresh curly parsley (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 C./500ml Heavy (double) cream

Pre-heat oven to 350F/170C. Butter a medium-sized baking dish (I use a oval shaped Pyrex dish) and grate Parmesan cheese into it, turning the dish to coat the bottom and sides. Add crushed and chopped garlic.
In a large sauce pan, bring water and salt (I use about 2Tbs/30ml of Kosher salt) to the boil. Add  the roughly cut potatoes and parboil for about 5-8 minutes, but no longer. Drain parboiled potatoes into a metal colander. Vigorously toss potatoes in the colander to roughen the cut edges of the potatoes. Pour half of the drained potatoes into the prepared baking dish, add half the chopped thyme and parsley. Dot with remaining butter. Salt and pepper to taste. Repeat with remaining potatoes, thyme and parsley. Cover potatoes and herbs with the cream. Grate more Parmesan onto the top (decadent - I know!) and place on the center rack of the pre-heated oven. Bake until hot, brown and bubbly on top - about 20-25 minutes. Remove and let stand 5 minutes. Serve in its baking dish. Serves 4-6

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shrimp a la Veracruz and Strawberry Shortcake

Hello everyone! Today I'm sharing a couple of my summertime favourites, Shrimp a la Veracruz, a very colourful dish and that American classic - Strawberry Shortcake. Both recipes can be easily prepared al fresco - in backyards and back gardens, at the beach, the local park, or on your balcony. This is not your average cookout fare and requires a little early preparation, but your efforts will be well rewarded by the accolades from friends and family. 

                                                                                    Shrimp a la Veracruz
Deep aluminium pan with foil for lid
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
6-8 Spring onions or scallions, julienned
3 assorted sweet peppers, thinly sliced
2-3 Jalapeño chili peppers, sliced
400g (2 C.) large shrimp or prawns, raw, peeled and de-veined
2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
4 plum tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
3 Tbs tomato purée or paste
Cilantro, chopped
Chardonnay (or chicken stock) to cover
Soft corn tortillas

Line the bottom of the pan with the sliced onions and peppers. Place the peeled and de-veined shrimp on top. Add the next four ingredients and pour over Chardonnay to cover. Foil the top of the pan and refrigerate until ready to cook. Place the foiled pan over medium hot coals for 10-15 minutes. Slice foil top to vent and allow liquid to reduce until slightly thickened. Serve with soft corn tortillas. Serves six.

Strawberry Shortcake

2 pints fresh strawberries
Lemon zest
Juice of a lemon
 1/4 C. sugar

For the shortcake
1/2 C. cake flour
1/2 C/ plain flour
1/4 C. sugar plus 2tsp for tops of shortcake
1 Tbs baking powder
Lemon zest
Pinch of salt
1/4 C. unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 C. buttermilk plus 1/4 C. heavy (double) cream

For the Chantilly Cream
1 pint whipping cream
3 Tbs confectioner's (icing) sugar

Top and slice the strawberries and place in a small bowl. Add the zest and juice of a lemon. Sprinkle sugar over fruit and toss. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 200C/375F. Combine flour, 1/4 C. sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt in medium bowl, Whisk together. Using only your fingertips, pinch the cubed butter into the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk and cream. Stir together using a fork until a ball forms. Turn out onto a floured surface or board and knead gently and pat dough flat until about 1/2 inch (3cm) thick. Using a 3 inch biscuit cutter, cut out six circles and place onto an ungreased cooking sheet. Brush the tops with cream and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake in hot oven for 15-18 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

Into a chilled glass bowl, pour whipping cream and sugar. Whisk mixture until soft peaks form. Place in refrigerator. Pack berries, biscuits and cream into separate containers and place in insulated cooler to transport, if required.

Split biscuits and cover one half with strawberries and Chantilly cream. Cover with cut top and more berries and cream/ Dust with powdered sugar and sliced and fanned strawberry. Serves six.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gary's American Pancakes

Sunday mornings are 'oh so much better' with pancakes with lots of butter and maple syrup. It is an American tradition to enjoy pancakes on Sundays (or Saturdays for those who cannot wait another day) and stack them high. Here is my tried and tested recipe for the perfect pancake. Be warned, these just might start a new tradition at your house!

1 C. (125g) plain flour (rounded)
3 Tbs (45ml) granulated sugar
1/2 tsp (2ml) cream of tartar (rounded)
1/2 tsp (2ml) bicarbonate of soda/baking soda (level)
1/4 tsp (1ml) salt
1 large egg
1 Tbs (15ml) vegetable oil
1/2 C. (125ml) milk (amount will vary)

Butter and Maple syrup to taste


Place a very lightly oiled non-stick griddle or heavy bottomed pan over a medium flame. Sift together first five ingredients into a medium sized bowl. With the back of a spoon make a small hollow in the center of the mixture. Add the egg in to the hollow that you made along with the vegetable oil. Using a wire whisk break the egg yolk and mix slightly. Gradually add the milk to the flour and egg, whisking gently to combine the ingredients. Add additional milk as needed to produce a batter the consistency of double or heavy cream. Let batter stand for 2-3 minutes until air bubbles appear on the surface.

Using a ladle, drop batter onto the hot griddle allowing it to pool into a circle. Once holes appear and break on the top surface tap the side of the griddle sharply with a wooden spoon or your spatula. If the bubbles break and the holes hold instead of closing together, it is time to flip over your pancake. This should take about a minute and a half for each side. Avoid flipping the pancake more than once. Remove to a warmed plate and butter. Repeat until all the batter is used. Pancakes may be kept warm in a slow oven (110C/230F).

Makes 6-8 pancakes. Recipe may be doubled.

Gary's Tips:

Using Cream of Tartar and Bicarbonate of Soda (baking soda) together in roughly equal measure instead of a packaged baking powder will result in a lighter, higher rise in cakes and quick breads.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gary's Lemon Drizzle Cake

What better place to start than with dessert?!

Over the years, many of my friends and family have asked for the recipe for my lemon drizzle cake. It is a rich, moist cake based upon a traditional pound cake (or 500g) recipe. Its secrets are now revealed! I hope that you try and enjoy this cake and let me know how well it works (or not) for you. I promise to make my recipes available in both metric (weighted) and Imperial measures.

For the Cake:
250g (8oz) soft cream cheese, at room temp
250g (1/2 lbs) unsalted butter, room temp
500g (3 1/2 C.) granulated sugar
6 large eggs, room temp
500g (4 C.) self-raising white flour
1/2 teaspoon (2ml) salt
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
150ml (1/2 C.) sour cream

 For the Glaze:
125g (1/2 C.) icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon


Butter and dust with flour a ring or Bundt pan (tin), set aside. Cream together cream cheese, butter and sugar until very light and smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Sift together flour and salt into a medium bowl and add lemon zest, stirring or whisking through.

Alternately blend in flour mixture in thirds with lemon juice, vanilla, and sour cream using an electric mixer on high speed or by hand (about 300 stokes each time) until batter is creamy and pourable.

Pour batter into prepared tin and tamp to remove any trapped air pockets. Place tin into a cold oven and bake at 170 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit (160C or 325F if fan assisted) for 60-70 minutes or until an inserted wooden skewer comes out clean from the cake. Do not under-bake.

For the Glaze:
Combine icing sugar and lemon juice in small bowl, whisk until smooth.

Remove cake tin to wire cooling rack. Cool in tin for ten minutes. Turn out cake onto cake dish and immediately brush a layer of glaze over the warm cake. Allow ten minutes more, then using fork or wire whisk drizzle more of the glaze over cake. Wait ten minutes, then drizzle again until the glaze is finished.

Gary's Tips: 
When baking make sure that ALL ingredients are brought to room temperature before combining (yes, eggs and liquid ingredients too). This is the exact opposite for making pastries where ALL ingredients are to be kept chilled. 

REMEMBER - Baking WARM (room temperature), Pastry COLD.