Sunday, May 24, 2009

It's Pimm's o'clock!

Well, summer is more or less upon us, and that can mean only one thing: refreshing cocktails. For me, last summer was "the summer of gin", with many still, humid evenings passed with a gin and tonic in hand. This summer, it would appear that the household is branching even further into late nineteenth century colonial British territory and has purchased a bottle of Pimm's. No, not those delicious, jam-filled cookies, but a sort of tonic one drinks while watching one's cricket match. Or else while relaxing in one's pith helmet after a long day of big game hunting under the hot African sun.

The finished product

Mixing up a Pimm's is just about as easy as it gets. And you can change it up to suit your mood, the weather, and the availability of ingredients (except of course the main ingredient, the Pimm's). It's not really worth a recipe, as the basic cocktail is given on the back of the bottle, but I wanted to post about it to get the Pimm's word out there. It's actually one of the best summer cocktails. Like, ever.

So herewith I present to you Pimm's, in all it's glory.
A perfectly Pimm's cocktail
(All ingredients, except the Pimm's, are more or less optional)
1 part Pimm's No. 1 Cup
2 parts tonic water, lemonade, sparkling lemonade or soda water
A shot of gin
A few slices each of cucumber, orange, lemon, strawberries, apple (or any combination of the above)
A few leaves of mint, torn into medium-sized pieces
A few borage flowers, if available
  • Put all the fruit and veg in the bottom of your serving jug
  • Add lots of ice
  • Measure out 1/3 of the total remaining volume of your jug in Pimm's. Add to jug
  • Add gin, if using
  • Fill the jug the rest of the way with tonic water, lemonade or soda water
  • Mix gently, but well
  • Garnish with mint and borage
  • Serve. As far as I can tell, appropriate Pimm's glasses include a highball glass, a Collins glass, a large wine glass (with or without stem), an iced tea glass or (and this may be pushing it) a champagne coupe. Make sure that each glass gets at least one of each kind of sliced fruit/veg and some ice.
  • Put on your pith helmet, cricket whites and/or handlebar mustache, sit outside somewhere sunny and enjoy the drink that my dad calls "thoroughly civilised"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Green Beans

Most illustrious and meritable blog: to you I would like to proffer one of my most celebrated and most highly regarded recipes: green beans with honey-soy sauce. These are not just ANY green beans. Zoe introduced them to me a few months ago, and since then they have become a staple in my diet. I cook these at least once a week. They are like, reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally good. And worthy of your appraisal, dear blog.

The introduction of this recipe was spurred by a joint trip to the grocery store, where green beans were on mega-sale. Zo and I gathered up a modest bundle of them and created this masterpiece (pictured above). A week or so later, I was desperate to recreate the dish and requested the recipe from Zoe in written form. I've basically kept it the same and added a few notes:
Recipe: delicious green beans

Lots of uncooked green beans (today I used about 200 grams, but pictured above is quite a bit more, maybe 300-350g).
2-3 cloves of garlic
honey, soy sauce and hot water for the sauce
  • Cut the ends off the beans and mince up the garlic. If you're feeling lazy, Zoe claims you can just slice the garlic and not mince it.
  • Cook the garlic in a frying pan/skillet with ≈ 1 tbsp oil (just enough to cover the bottom of the pan).
  • Once it's soft (but not brown) add all the green beans and start them cooking. Try to arrange the beans so that they all get some pan space. Cook them until they start to shrivel up, or to your desired done-ness (I prefer them like this, but Zoe recommends that they are brown and shrivelly). In any case, just make sure they are soft enough to absorb some of the sauce.
  • Add the sauce (recipe below!)
  • Cook over medium high heat for another few minutes, turning the beans every so often to coat them until the sauce turns into a glaze.
To make the sauce:
  • Add about half a spoonful of honey and two spoonfuls of hot (boiling water) to a small bowl. Mix to dissolve the honey.
  • Add 2+ spoonfuls of soy sauce. I stopped at 2, but those of you who don't like too much sweetness in your green beans might add more to balance out the honey.
  • If desired (and we usually so desire), add crushed red pepper flakes and/or some of that asian hot chili sauce. By "some," Zoe recommends "a bit more than you think you should."
  • Mix.

If you're feeling really generous like Zoe, you can split them up between a few people. But if you're like me you will just eat all of them yourself.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Deviled Eggs

I'd imagine most of you, while reading about our Easter feast, immediately stopped and thought, "WAIT. THEY ARE MISSING THE MOST IMPORTANT RECIPE!!!!"

You know what I'm talking about. That's right, deviled eggs.

I'm going to admit that prior to our Easter celebration I thought everyone liked deviled eggs. It turns out Zoe and James (our Easter guest) don't, and I am the only deviled egg fan. Which explains why I am writing this post solo.

Usually when I make deviled eggs, I just guess the quantities of every ingredient and don't measure anything. For the benefit of this post, however, I made a special batch and was sure to write everything down. Here is what I've come up with.

RECIPE: Deviled eggs

2 eggs
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
0.25 teaspoon mustard
1 of those mini-pickles (chopped up really small)
pickle juice (≈ 1.5 teaspoon)
salt and pepper (to taste)

  • Boil the eggs.
    • HINT: Put the eggs into a pot and fill it with water (the water level should be at least a centimeter above the eggs). Bring the water and eggs to a boil and turn the heating element to low or off. Cover and wait 10-12 minutes before taking the eggs out. They should be hard-boiled, and the centers won't be green and gross-looking.
  • Peel the eggs and slice them in half. Scoop out the yolks and put them into a bowl. Mash up the yolks.
  • Add the mayonnaise, mustard and chopped pickle. The chopped pickle is really key here, since it adds necessary texture. If you're a real mustard fan, you can add more mustard.
  • Add the pickle juice until the mixture reaches the consistency you want. For me this was about 1.5 teaspoons, but it could change depending on how much mustard you've added or whatever.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Spoon the mixture back into the eggs and sprinkle with paprika (important!)
    • Note: If you want to try to be fancy and pipe/squeeze the mixture into the eggs through a plastic bag or pastry tip, whatever. Go ahead and do it on your own time, but just don't show up at my doorstep with your eggs looking like that. It's just silly.
Makes 4 deviled egg-halves. Feel free to double, or quadruple or otherwise increase this recipe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


So. Another semester and all of our finals are now over. One of us (Zo) has left everyone's favourite city to spend the summer with her family in Ontario, then to go on exchange next year, meaning that this blog is going to change a little. Instead of being largely a chronicle of our collective culinary creations, it will be a place for the two of us to share, with you and with each other, our experiences in our own kitchens over the next year and a half or so. But, before that, we have to share our most ambitious, and most successful, undertaking yet: Easter dinner.

The main event

There are a few requirements for Easter dinner, at least chez Zo. Number one: roast lamb. Number two: new potatoes. To make up the rest of the dinner, we decided to use sides that go well with any roast dinner: steamed cabbage and glazed carrots. Finally, somebody has a weird attachment to deviled eggs, which will be their own post, so she made some for her own dinner.

We got up epic-ly early on Easter Saturday in order to head for the market and buy what we would be needing for Monday's dinner. Unfortunately, in our vernal zeal, we got there so early that all the meat-selling stalls were not yet open. We strolled around, bought our herbs and vegetables and, there being still plenty of time before the meat-stalls opened, sat down to an oh-so-European breakfast of chocolat chaud and croissants à l'érable. Eventually, we headed over to the stalls, only to find that the lamb was priced at approximately
$10, 982, 398, 798, 234 /lb. Or something equally out of our price range. So we walked back home and nabbed the last leg of lamb in the grocery store.

Well, having never cooked a roast of meat on our own before, we were understandably apprehensive. We diligently scoured the internet (ok, we searched "lamb" on the BBC food site) and came up with this recipe, complete with video instructions. The recipe for the lamb itself was great, and we stuck with it pretty much 100%, except, because our leg was slightly larger than 2 kilos (it was the only one left in the store, ok?), so we cooked it a bit longer. We were also without a meat thermometer, so we had to go by the handy guide printed onto Eliz's oven, and by how delicious the meat looked. And boy, did it look delicious.

We opted against the gravy included in that recipe, and instead went with a more traditional mint sauce. The recipe we used calls for waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much mint, so we ended up with waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much sauce. But oh well, c'est la vie. Here is a relatively good recipe, but remember that, especially with this kind of thing, measures are approximate and you should just do what tastes good.

Mint Sauce for Roast Lamb
A bunch (≈ 5-10g?) of fresh mint
1 tbsp (+) hot (recently boiled) water
1 tsp (+) sugar
2 tbsp (+) vinegar (white wine or cider would work best, but red wine or sherry would also work. Do NOT use white or malt vinegar. You will regret it.)
  • Chop the mint very finely, or use a food processor. If using a food-processor, do not whizz it so fine that it becomes a paste. You want small, reasonably regular, pieces a few millimeters across. It's also ok if they're a bit bigger (like if you're chopping).
  • Put the mint into a small bowl, or whatever vessel you're using to serve the sauce. Pour enough freshly boiled water over it to cover, plus a little bit more.
  • Leave it to steep for 15-20 minutes. You're basically making a mint tea here, which you will flavour, thereby turning it into a sauce. It's like magic!
  • Add sugar and vinegar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
  • Taste it to make sure it's well balanced. It should be sweet, tart, minty and super-duper yummy. Add more vinegar or sugar (or both) to taste.
So. The roast is in the oven and the sauce is ready to go. Next up: the sides. These all require about the same cooking time which is kind of handy and also kind of frustrating: it's somewhat difficult to prepare three dishes at once. I recommend getting the prep work done before the meat goes in the oven, so that everything can be ready at once. So, in no particular order, I present: The Sides.
Glazed Carrots
500g carrots, chopped
500 ml water
25g sugar
1 tsp salt
50g butter
  • Put all ingredients in an appropriately sized saucepan.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer
  • Simmer for a long time, until almost all of the liquid has gone. It should be a glaze (hence, "glazed carrots"). If you think it's done, leave it a little longer for added deliciousness. The glaze may even begin to caramelize (turn brown and become caramel), which is fine. And scrumptious.
New Potatoes
As many new potatoes (the little ones with the fine skins) as you can eat.
A few more new potatoes, because they are just so moreish, and you can fry them up the next morning for excellent home fries.
Some butter, to serve.
  • Wash the potatoes in cold water and cut out any gross pieces or eyes.
  • Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
  • Bring them to the boil and keep them there until a fork goes in them easily (they feel as they would if they were on your plate), about 20 minutes.
  • Serve with butter. Yum.
A bit less than half a cabbage (either the curly green kind or the smooth green kind works best, but the red kind is also good), chopped into piece approximately 1 inch by 1 inch
A tiny bit of lemon juice (optional)
  • Steam the cabbage (covered) until it is soft, about 20 minutes
    • A side note on steaming: boiling will also work, but it makes the cabbage mushy, a little bit smelly, and takes all the nutrients out of it. We didn't have a steamer (a kind of double-boiler, with the inner pot being full of holes, like a colander), so we had to improvise. We took a medium-sized aluminum pie plate (the disposable kind) and trimmed it so that it fit inside our pot. We poked a bunch of holes in the aluminum with a fork and put it in the pot upside down, so that it formed a kind of raised platform on which the cabbage could sit. We put about an inch or an inch and a half of water in the bottom of the saucepan and put the cabbage in on top. Cover it with a lid and presto-change-o, you've made yourself a steamer!
  • Keep an eye on the cabbage, and maybe replenish the water in the bottom with freshly boiled water once or twice during the cooking, to make sure it doesn't boil dry. You also might want to stir the cabbage once or twice (try and flip the stuff on the bottom to the top) to make sure it cooks evenly.
  • Once the cabbage is fully cooked (it will be soft and edible-feeling), drain the water out and put the cabbage into a bowl. Add some butter (as much or as little as you feel is appropriate... although the more you add, the more delicious it will obviously be), plenty of pepper and a bit of salt, as well as a squeeze of lemon juice if you want, and mash it all up really well with a fork.
This is an extra-special meal, so we think a little extra effort is warranted.
  • Warm up the plates in the oven (but not too hot!) before you serve, to make sure the food stays warm until you can eat it.
  • Use the nicest plates, cutlery and glasses you have
  • Open a really nice bottle of wine. You deserve it after all this work!
  • Arrange the table nicely and light some candles (hey, we're students, ok? Not all of us have space or money for candlesticks, or serving dishes... or chairs)
  • Dress up in nice Easter-y clothes!
  • Listen to some Easter-appropriate music
  • Enjoy with friends or family who are just as excited about this meal as you are!