Thursday, January 30, 2014

Goat curry stew

I bought a pound of goat meat at the grocery store, with only the faintest idea how to prepare and serve it. Even B, with his unwavering faith in my cooking abilities, was skeptical. He thought it would taste like skinny lamb. I settled on an Indian-style stew which would give the meat time to lose its toughness. Now, this isn't your Indian grandmother's recipe which takes three days to make and where everything is from scratch. In coming up with it, I took some shortcuts and liberties, but it's still a tasty dish with good flavour and some kick. I brought some for Nini to try and was pleased as punch when she gave it a genuine, honest-to-goodness thumbs up! Serves about 4.


Heat a sautĂ© pan over medium-low heat. Add spices: 1/2 tsp each of coriander, cardamom, curry, turmeric, cumin, cloves, Indian masala and ginger. Cook until the spices release their aromas, while gently shaking pan. If using whole spices, grind them with a mortar and pestle. Tap spices out into a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 T oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear 1 lb bone-in goat cubes for about 4-5 minutes, turning to ensure all sides become a dark brown. Remove meat cubes using tongs and place in a slow cooker. 

Reduce heat slightly, and add a little more oil if the saucepan is too dry. Add 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2" pieces, 1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 2" pieces, and 1 onion, peeled and quartered. Cook for about 5 minutes until starting to caramelize, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. 

Add 1 can Madras cooking sauce and one jar of dal (lentil stew), one jar's worth of cold water and the spices. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the goat meat in the slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

Serve with naan or basmati rice (or crusty bread, in my case), plus pickled vegetables or chutney as accompaniments.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Staycation countdown

January's a crappy month at the best of times and this one fit the bill. There was a setback at work, my much-needed get-together with my sister and girlfriends was cancelled by bad weather, we had some needless expenses, and little things seemed to go wrong every day. On the other hand, we were the recipients of acts of kindness. And a heartbreaking loss suffered by friends - the very same ones beset by an equally terrible tragedy just 7 months ago - made sure we kept things in perspective. 

There are good times ahead: we're marching towards our May 10 wedding date. And B and I decided to break up the stretch between New Year's and Easter with a week-long staycation, starting on Valentine's Day when we've made a 'date' to go pick up our marriage certificate at City Hall. I've literally never taken a vacation at home since I started working, so I'm super excited! We each drew up lists of things we want to do. On mine is to visit Ottawa's Winterlude, go see my grandparents, spend a day at the outdoor baths in beautiful Gatineau Hills, actually sit in the gym's massage chairs after a workout rather than rushing home, kick back and watch the Olympics, finish one or two books, and cross a few more things off my to-do list. 3 weeks to go!!!


Pants - Elie Tahari via outlets
Blouse - Liz Clairborne via thrift store
Sweater - Banana Republic via thrift store
Shoes - Aldo via thrift store
Necklace - Claire's

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Everything but the kitchen sink spaghetti sauce

Set aside a couple of hours if you plan to tackle this spaghetti sauce. Trust me, it's well worth it if you have the freezer space to store all the homemade goodness it will yield - or if, like me, you repay the kindness of friends, neighbours and family with food. 

This recipe is my own, and I've been tweaking and adding to it over the years (mentioned previously here). It has over two dozen ingredients plus 13 dried herbs and spices. The quantities below made enough sauce to fill my slow cooker - twice. You may want to adjust the quantities to your household. 

Once that meaty sauce chock-full of fresh veggies has simmered in the slow cooker for the better part of the day, you're be giving yourself a pat on the back. Spoon it over fresh pasta and add some freshly grated Parmesan for the perfect winter meal.


Working in batches, brown 5 lbs of lean ground beef and 4 coarsely chopped Italian sausages in a large stockpot. (Note: If I have pancetta or prosciutto on hand, I'll usually throw some of that in too). Drain, then place half the meat in the slow cooker and keep the other half for the second slow-cooker batch.

To prepare vegetables, finely dice 4 stalks celery, 3 carrots, 2 sweet onions, and 1 head of garlic ('and a partridge in a pear tree'). Set aside in a bowl. Then dice 6 white mushrooms, 1 Portobello mushroom, 2 red peppers and coarsely chop 1 package of thawed frozen spinach.

Heat 2T olive oil over medium-high heat in the same stockpot used for the meat. Add garlic, onions, carrots and celery and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. Then add the rest of the vegetables and cook for another couple of minutes. Push the vegetables to one side of the pot, then add one whole can of tomato paste and 1/2 cup floor, stirring vigorously so the tomato paste and flour brown slightly, but don't burn. Pour in 1/2 bottle fruity red wine. Note: If I have any antipasto on hand, like sundried tomatoes or marinated eggplant, I'll add this as well.

Add (get ready for it) 3 jars diced tomatoes, 2 jars marinara sauce, 1 cup ketchup, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup pesto, 1/4 cup HP sauce, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/4 cup Wochester sauce, 6 chopped anchovies, 3T Dijon.  

Then stir in 1T each of chile, sage, tarragon, savoury, mustard powder, onion powder, garlic salt, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil and pepper. 

Add half of this mixture to the meat in the crockpot, and cook on low heat for at least 4 hours. Freeze in dinner-sized portions, then cook the second batch of the meat and vegetable mixtures.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Baked salmon with cauliflower 'crumbs' and mustard dill béchamel

I was reading an article about the versatility of cauliflower, which is apparently on its way to displacing kale as the new 'it' food in 2014. Look for it at a mason jar-and-reclaimed wood-bedecked communal dining gastropub near you. 

The article described a chef who grated cauliflower into vegetable-based 'breadcrumbs'. I decided to try it myself. In his version, he had tossed the caulicrumbs with garam masala but I left them plain so the flavours wouldn't overwhelm the mustard dill sauce. 


Finely grate 3/4 cup raw cauliflower (see note below). Squeeze the juice of half a lemon onto a large fillet of salmon, then spread cauliflower crumbs on top. Bake salmon at 400F for about 15 minutes. 

While the salmon is cooking, melt 2T butter in a small saucepan. Then, sprinkle in 2T  flour and whisk vigorously until a roux forms. Gradually pour 1 cup of milk, continuing to whisk regularly. Add 2T Dijon (I used a truffle-flavoured version). Continuing cooking and whisking until the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and season generously. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped dill. 

Serve the sauce as an accompaniment to the salmon. 

Note: I found the cauliflower crumbs were still moist after baking. Next time, I plan to spread them on a baking tray lined with foil and broil until they start to brown and (hopefully) lose some of the moisture.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Regifting of the best kind

Over Christmas, my Mom re-gifted a vest to me that I'd bought her a few years ago, in Bratislava. She'd worn it for a few fancy occasions, and often to work, but has since retired. I think she knew I'd kind of always loved it ;)

I wasted no time, wearing it for Christmas dinner at my in-laws over a cozy cashmere sweater with the wax denim jeans from my previous post (here). And yep, I changed right from my boots into my trusty slippers once we stepped in the door. I felt pretty toasty on what was otherwise a very cold day!


Vest - Bought in Bratislava
Sweater - Banana Republic via thrift store
Jeans - Banana Republic
Boots - Blondo
Bag - Roots
Necklace - Hand-me-down
Watch - Kenneth Cole
Bracelets - Hand-me-downs

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dolly Parton dessert squares

Right before Christmas, I convinced myself I hadn't made enough goodies for the little tins I put together for friends and coworkers. I remembered some squares that my Mom used to make when we were young, and thought they would make a nice addition. Problem was, I remembered literally only one ingredient: sweetened condensed milk. My Mom being the miracle worker she is, recognized that I was thinking of Dolly Parton squares. Here's the recipe; don't ask where the name comes from!


To make, combine 1-1/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs with 2/3 cup melted butter or margarine and 1/2 cup brown sugar (add a little more butter if it's not sticking together enough. Mix together and press into a 9" square pan. Sprinkle the base with semi-sweet chocolate chips, sweetened coconut flakes and pecan pieces. Pour one tin of sweetened condensed milk over the top. Bake at 350F for about 25 minutes. Once cool, cut into squares.

Note: The surface of the squares should be starting to brown when you remove the pan from the oven. The condensed milk may still appear a bit runny, but it will set as the squares cool.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Bewitching baubles

Happy New Year!! Judging by everyone's social media feeds, it looks like most of you enjoyed a superfantabulous holiday season, despite the wild weather across North America. 

I hadn't planned on this little blogging break, but, well, life got in the way. Really, can you blame me for not wanting to pass up opportunities like THIS, a solo early-morning skate on the canal before the crowds arrived?

The next couple of months are shaping up to be a bit of a whirlwind of wedding planning, big deadlines at work, attempts at regular gym-going, and making time for family and friends. I love blogging and I'm not going anywhere, but bear with me if my posting's more erratic than usual!

I thought it fitting to kick off 2014 with literally my first outfit of the New Year. We celebrated with a low-key gathering of friends in the 'Valley'. Comfort and denim rules in the country, so I wore a new pair of burgundy wax denim jeans, a denim shirt, and a big statement necklace for a bit of glam. And slippers because I'm THAT visitor. My friends' 15-month old sat on my lap that evening and was completely enthralled by my necklace. She'd touch and grasp the baubles one by one in her tiny hand and let out an 'oooooooh!!' of excitement. So adorable. We'd just been talking about how to raise girls to not be overly focused on physical appearance. (Aside: another friend wrote a great op-ed, 'Please don't tell my daughter she's beautiful', available here). Our circle of friends is determined to do our best, but I think some femininity is innate....girls love pretty things!


{Drinks were had. Pictures are blurry.}

Top - Gap via thrift store
Pants - Banana Republic
Necklace - Road Trip via sidewalk sale
Slippers - La Vie en Rose