Monday, 2 December 2013

Homemade pizza for your next pizza party!

I can't believe that it's already December! I was so determined to catch up with my posts earlier in November, but I guess it's just like another overly ambitious New Year's resolution that didn't last long. My overall yield of blog post in November is 1. According to Wikipedia, "A 2007 study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning." Okay, enough excuse searching, my goal for December is to pump out a few more party-friendly recipes before the hectic holiday season starts! 

I have tried to make pizza at home before with different recipes. So far, this is the best pizza dough recipe that I found and it works really well to give you the nice, slightly crunchy pizzas.  

500 g of all purpose flour
300-350 ml of warm water
25 g fresh yeast or 8 g of instant dry yeast (the weight of fresh yeast is 3 times of the dried ones)
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (you could add more oil to get a crispier dough)
1 tsp salt

1. Get a large bowl, add yeast and sugar to the warm water, let it stand for 10 min (to re-hydrate and recover)
2. Add olive oil to the liquid
3. Add salt to the flour, slowly add the flour mix to the liquid, mix well. 
4. Move the dough to a floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5-10min until it's no longer sticky and if you poke the dough, it would bounce back. 
5. Put dough in a big bowl, cover up the bowl with saran wrap, and let it rise until it doubles its size. Usually it takes about an hour or so, depending on the temperature in your kitchen
6. Beat the dough down, and roll it to the shape of a pizza. 
7. And then the fun part starts!  You can put whatever toppings you desire,just let your creativity take over! 
8. Leave the pizza sitting on your counter for another 30-40min until the dough doubles its size again. This is the second rising step which is quite important. If you skip this step, the pizza will taste very dense. 

I prepared a traditional Margherita pizza with fresh basil leaves (put the leaves only AFTER the pizza is baked, or the herbs will turn black), and a second pizza with pesto sauce and thin-sliced potatoes. 

It's been a slice,

Monday, 11 November 2013

Culinary Arts II-Week 7: Moroccan Lamb Stew!

As I mentioned before in my previous blog posts, lamb is not really my go-to meat to cook because of its distinct gamey taste that I am not fond of. However, in this week's recipe, we prepared Lamb Maroc, a.k.a., the Moroccan lamb stew, which has quickly become one of my favourite lamb recipes. The different layers of flavours like savoury, sweet, sour, and spicy all blend in together in a harmonic manner, and they manage to mask the gamey taste of lamb very well. I am not very familiar with Moroccan food, but to me, this dish shares some basic tastes with Indian curry, probably because of the Moroccan spices used, Ras el Hanout, which contains equal parts of nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, ginger, clove, coriander, pepper, saffron, and turmeric. If you are worried about the gamey taste in lamb and reluctant to cook it, give this recipe a try, you'd be pleasantly surprised! 

1 kg lamb shoulder meat, chopped
3 oz olive oil
3 oz butter
60 g ginger
2 tsp Ras el Hanout
650 mL chicken stock, warmed up
1 piece of onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 piece of cinnamon stick, broken into 2 halves
1 cup of raisins
1 cup of almonds (toasted at 300F until turned golden brown)
1/4 cup of honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
1 lemon, juice squeezed
salt/pepper to taste

1. Take a pan, heat the oil, sear the chopped lamb at high heat until browned, remove from the pan
2. Drain the fat from pan and add melted butter, sweat the chopped onion at medium heat until golden brown (takes about 15min)  
3. Add the cinnamon sticks, spices, and ginger, sweat for a minute
4. Stir in raisins, and add warm chicken stock to the pot
5. Add the meat back into the pot, stir well and simmer for 30min
6. Add the toasted almonds, honey, and lemon juice, simmer for another 20min
7. Stir constantly to make sure that the honey doesn't get burned at the bottom of the pot
8. Garnish the dish with chopped cilantro right before serving
* this dish goes really well with cumin-flavoured rice! 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Fish - Week 2: Arctic char cooked in a parchment paper bag!

Hi, blog! Long time no see! Sorry about my absence, I got distracted by school, travelling, and running errands here and there. But really, put all my excuses aside,  I have just been procrastinating. It's been decided, the resolution of November is to catch up with my blog posts! 

In the second week of the Fish class, we learned how to cook round fish. We steamed a pickerel and cooked arctic char in a parchment paper bag. Personally, I don't really like steamed fish. Steaming fish is a very Asian way to prepare fish, usually a whole fish is used. I find that it's hard to get flavours into the fish by just steaming it. As a result, the fish sometimes has a strong "fishy" taste. On the other hand, the Italian dish "fish en papillote", a.k.a., fish cooked in a parchment paper bag, is one of my favourite cooking techniques. It's a light, healthy dish that only requires a small amount a butter, and short cooking time. Since you can add vegetables of your choice to the same parchment bag, it's really a "one-pot" reaction that you get your main and side dishes at the same time. 

Arctic char en Papillote
4 pieces of Arctic char fillets
4 green onions, chopped
2 shallots, brunoise (very small dice)
half fennel, julienned
half carrot, julienned
half celery stalk, julienned
half leek, julienned
3 sprigs of parsley
125 mL dry white wine
25 mL lemon juice

1. pre-heat the oven to 400F
2. take a piece of parchment paper, brush the paper with some butter and vegetable oil
3. season the fish with salt and pepper on both sides, put the fish on one side of the paper
4. put chopped vegetables on top of the fish
5. add a splash of white wine to the fish/vegetables
6. use the other side of the parchment paper to wrap everything inside 
7. bake at 400F for 20min

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Indian Week 2 - Butter Chicken!

Last week I went to a pot luck dinner which had an Indian theme. I prepared some butter chicken and cumin-seasoned rice. The dishes turned out well and I got a couple requests after for the recipe, which whipped me to write up this long overdue entry of what we learned in Week 2's class. This is an authentic recipe from my Indian Chef's grandma. The only alternation that I make is to cut off some of the butter. I like the recipe a lot because it's fairly easy to make (roughly 1hr cook time) and it's a lot healthier than butter chicken that you get in a restaurant as you can control the amount of butter that you put in. 

1 whole chicken, 8-pieced

For Marinade:
15g garlic paste
15g ginger paste
250g greek yogurt
lemon juice from 1 piece
1 tbsp vegetable oil

15g Tandoori spice10g red chili powder
10g cumin powder
10g coriander powder
2.5g turmeric powder
a pinch of orange colour powder
salt/pepper to taste

For Sauce:
1/2 cup butter (usually I just use 2 tbsp)
1 onion, chopped
700mL canned tomatoes, crushed
100mL 35% cream
5g toasted dry Fenugreek leaves
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
sugar, salt to taste
10g garam masala

1. mix half garlic/ginger paste, half of the powder spices and everything else from the marinade together and let the chicken sit in it overnight 
2. preheat the oven to 450F, bake the chicken for 20min
3. at the same, heat a hot and melt the butter, brown the onion (takes a good 15-20min to get golden brown at medium heat)
4. add the other half garlic/ginger paste, sweat it for 1min
5. add the second half of the powder spices, stir for 1min
6. add the crushed tomatoes, the leftover marinade if there is any and water to make it to a thick liquid
7. add sugar to adjust the acidity, simmer it for 15min
8. add the cooked chicken, simmer for another 5-10min
9. adjust seasoning with salt/sugar
10. off heat, stir in garam masala, Fenugreek leaves and garnish with cilantro leaves

Monday, 5 August 2013

Fish - Week 1: Pan Seared Tilapia with Olive Butter Sauce

All good things must come to an end. In mid July, I finished my BBQ class, which was one of my favourite classes so far. Without my major food supply from that class, all of sudden I had to plan out what to cook for dinner and what to pack for lunch. Then I started to look through GBC calendar, and decided to take another course to feed me for another 6 weeks in the summer. Since I have always loved seafood, I picked the course - Fish. Sometimes I find that seafood can be hard to cook. Once you over cook them, there's no turning back. The texture would become really chewy and unpleasant. So I was really eager to find out the tricks to make perfect seafood dishes! 

In the first week's class, we filleted a tilapia and prepared Pan Fried Tilapia with Olive Butter and Fennel/Potato Gratin. Tilapia is a type of round fish. Personally, I wouldn't recommend buying the whole fish, because the yield after filleting the fish is quite small. Usually you can find tilapia fillets in the stores at a very affordable price. 

Pan Friend Tilapia
1 tilapia, filleted, lightly seasoned with salt and pepper
some black olives, chopped

1. clean the fish, fillet the meat
2. lightly season the fish with salt and pepper, then dip into flour (make sure you shake off excess flour before frying the fish)
3. take a pan, heat some oil to very high temperature, brown the floured fish both sides quickly (the presentation side down first) 
4. at the same time make the olive sauce. In a pot, melt some butter, stir fry some chopped olives, squeeze in half lemon juice, reduce the volume for a bit.                                                    5. transfer the fish to a baking sheet, pour the olive butter sauce on top of the fish. Bake at 450F for 10min, 

Fennel/Potato Gratin
1 kg Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 fennel bulb
1 onion slicded
2 cups of heavy cream
2 tbsp butter
parmesan cheese

1. in a pot, melt some butter, sweat the onion and fennel
2. add heavy cream to the pot, bring the liquid to a simmer for 10min, adjust salt/pepper
3. put sliced, uncooked potatoes to the liquid
4. transfer everything to a baking tray, layer the potato slices with parmesan cheese in between
5. put grated parmesan cheese on the top
6. bake with a lid on at 400F for 1.5-2hr, then with a lid off for another 10min at 450F to get a nice brown colour

Sunday, 4 August 2013

BBQ Cooking - Week 6: Slow Cooked Beef Chuck Ribs+Roasted Whole Piglet-Chinese Wedding Style!

This was the last class for the BBQ cooking course. We made Slow Cooked Beef Chuck Ribs, Grilled Back Ribs with Tunnel Style Sweet and Hot Sauce, Grilled Hot Banana PeppersMy group job was to remove the seeds from a couple hundred banana peppers and then stuff them with rice. My poor bare hands were coated with capsaicin and I could still feel the burning sensations even 3 days after the exposure. Believe me, I tried everything I can to remove those bugger capsaicin molecules, including washing my hands with olive oil and even a small amount of acetone from the lab. Nothing worked. So if you ever have to do the same task, make sure that you wear a pair of gloves! Over all, this is a great course and I enjoyed it a lot! I learned exactly what I came here for, new cooking techniques that involve a BBQ. 

As it was the final class, our chef also showed us something extra -- a crispy baby pig that is commonly served at Cantonese Chinese weddings. 

For the baby pig, the chef first roasted it slowly in the oven at 300F. Once it's fully cooked after about 3hr, he put it on the rack over a large wok, and poured really hot oil all over its body. Literally, the pig was burned and the skin just popped open to become crispy. (sorry about the graphic description)

Slow Cooked Beef Chuck Ribs
4 bone rack beef chuck ribs (chuck ribs are the first 4 ribs of the animal)
1 onion, chopped
12 shallots, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
6 garlic
500 mL red wine
1 L beef stock
1 L chicken stock
200 mL crushed tomatoes
1 bay leaf

1. rub chuck ribs with general some rub mixture (basically you can make a dry rub using whatever spices you want, i.e. chilli powder, garlic powder, curry powder, peppercorn, etc)
2. in a pan, heat some oil to brown the ribs
3. add onion/celery/carrot/shallot/garlic
4. add red wine and stock, simmer for a few minutes
5. add crushed tomatoes, bring the braising pan to the oven
6. slow cook the meat at 325F for about 2 hrs, take the meat out to rest, keep cooking the liquid to reduce it to a thick sauce

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

BBQ Cooking - Week 5: Chinese BBQ pork!

I have been waiting for this week's class since the beginning of the course, and finally, I got to learn how to make Cha Shao (Mandarin), or Char Siu (Cantonese), or you may know it as the Chinese BBQ pork-the China town style! At first I was pretty sceptical about learning how to make a traditional Chinese dish from my Canadian chef. It would be like learning pop culture from your parents. But then I had to bite my tongue really hard after I tried his cha shao, which is the most amazing cha shao that I've ever had in my 20 some-odd years of existence! The key to success lies in the marinade. I have tried to replicate the marinade at home, compared to the chef's gold standard, and I can say this with confidence: if you follow the recipe below, you will get the BEST cha shao ever!

3 lb pork shoulder (or sometimes it's called the pork butt, same thing)

300 mL hoisin sauce
200 mL oyster sauce
100 mL honey
50 mL light soy  sauce
30 mL Chinese cooking wine/brandy
5 g ground cinnamon
5 g ground Sichuan peppercorn
5 g ground star anise
3 cloves of whole garlic
We hang the meat in this industrial oven in class, but you can also cook it in your own oven in a roasting pan. 

1. Mix everything together and marinade the pork overnight

2. Take a deep roasting pan with a rack in it. Add about 1 cm of water to the tray. Put the pork on top of the rack. (I don't have a baking rack, so I just rolled some aluminium foil into rods with a diameter of about 2 cm. I raised my pork above the water using the rods). The water in the pan will create some steam in your oven to tenderize the meat, as well as to collect the drippings from the marinade. The flavourful liquid will eventually become the sauce that you can serve with the meat and rice. 

3. Bake the meat at 300F for 1.5hr, basting the surface of the meat repeatedly every 15min or so. After 1.5 hr, increase the temperature to 450F and bake another 10 min. During the final high-temperature stage, the sugar coated on the pork surface will caramelize and give you a natural red colour (unlike the red food colouring used in many restaurants). 

4. Let the meat rest for a few minutes and slice thinly. 

If you ever try this recipe at home, let me know how it turns out. Really excited to hear about your experience with this recipe! 

Thursday, 4 July 2013

BBQ Cooking - Week 4: it's all about chicken!

Just like last week's fish-themed class, this week's class was all about chicken! The two main courses were: Roasted BBQ Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorn Rub, and Jerk Chicken Legs. During the same week, I also made Tandoori Chicken in my Indian class. So basically, I was eating chicken for a week straight. I was chicken-saturated as much as a brine solution, but thankfully, each chicken dish was good in its own way, and distinct enough from the others.

Roasted BBQ Chicken with Sichuan Peppercorn Rub
Dry rub mix
30 g Sichuan peppercorns
30 g dried orange peel

Stock ale BBQ sauce
300 mL Millstreet stock or Tankhouse ale
750 mL ketchup
100 mL dijon mustard
5 cloves of garlic
1/2 onion, diced
20 g prepared horse radish
50 mL malt vinegar
10 g chili powder
5 g cayenne pepper
salt, pepper, brown sugar to taste

Butterflied whole chickens that look like being hit by a bus

1. Cut the whole chicken into halves from the back side, leave the chest side attached
2. Season the chicken with salt/pepper, and rub its surface with olive oil
3. Use a food processor to grind the Sichuan peppercorns and the dried orange peel. Rub the chicken surface with the Dry rub mix
4. To make the BBQ sauce, heat some oil in a pan and sweat the onion and garlic. Add all the other ingredients, stir and reduce to a desired consistency. 
5. Grill the chicken at medium heat for about 15min until it's 80% done. Then brush the chicken surface with the Ale BBQ sauce. Grill each side for a few minutes while repeatedly basting the chicken with the BBQ sauce. 

BBQ chicken with roasted finger potatoes and grilled veggies
Jerk Chicken Legs
 4 large chicken legs
1 can of coconut milk

2 bunches of green onions, chopped coarsely
1 bunch of picked thyme
1 large piece of ginger, chopped
3 scotch bonnet peppers (with seeds), halved
20 g crushed black peppercorns
30 mL white vinegar
10 g allspice
5 g ground cinnamon
30 mL molasses
water, used in dilute to get the desired consistency

1. Mix everything in the marinade together and purée them in a food processor
2. Take some of the mixture to marinade the chicken, at least for a few hours, and save some of the marinade for basting later.
3. Cook the legs slowly on the grill at low heat, baste them with the uncontaminated marinade repeatedly. 
4. During the last ten minutes, brush the legs with coconut milk

I know they look the same, but this is the Jerk. You will just have to take my word for it. 

Thursday, 27 June 2013

BBQ Cooking - Week 3: Fish on the grill!

In this week's class, we tried two ways to cook fish on the BBQ. We grilled Whole Striped Bass Stuffed with Lemon/Thyme/Ginger, and Miso Honey Glazed Atlantic Salmon. For the sides, we made Grilled Acorn Squash which I really liked, as well as Candied Sweet Potatoes that I didn't try due to my severe allergy. 

Whole Striped Bass Stuffed with Lemon/Thyme/Ginger
1 whole striped bass
a large piece of ginger, chopped
1/2 bunch thyme
1 lemon, sliced
olive oil, salt/pepper to taste

1. Clean the fish, cut off the fins 
2. Rub the inside of the fish with olive oil, salt and pepper
3. Stuff the cavity with ginger, thyme, and lemon slices
4. Use a skewer to go through the fish and secure the stuffing 
5. Make a few cuts on the fish, to expose more surface area, grill on the BBQ

* Each side takes about ~10min to cook, but it depends on the heat of your BBQ. To check if the fish is done, poke it with a toothpick/skewer, if the stick comes in without any resistance and comes out clear (no meat attached), the fish is ready. 

Miso Honey Glazed Atlantic Salmon
4 6oz salmon fillets

* We had to fillet the whole salmons ourselves. Maybe when I get some free time, I will do a sketch on how to fillet round fish. For now, just look at the whole fish photo below, and picture nicely cleaned fillet portions. 

20g miso paste
40 mL rice wine mirin
20 mL honey
salt/white pepper to taste

1. Mix the ingredients in the glaze in a bowl, whisk everything to a homogeneous mixture
2. Marinade the fillets in the glaze mixture for a couple hours, or you can leave it overnight. Save some uncontaminated glaze for basting later.
3. Grill the fillets on the BBQ, at 45 degrees angle to the grill bars for 3min, then move them 90 degrees (perpendicular to the initial position) for another 3min. This is how you get good looking crossed grill marks on the fish. Baste the fillets with the saved glaze from time to time. 
4. Turn the fish to the other side, grill the same way for about 6min.

Grilled Acorn Squash
This is a very tasty and easy side dish to make. Basically, you just cut some squash slices. Then take a bowl to melt some butter, stir in brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt/pepper to taste. Pour the butter sauce over the squash wedges, coat them well, and grill them on the BBQ! It takes ~10-15min to cook them until they become soft. 

Friday, 21 June 2013

Don't cry over your onions!

     After I posted a picture of myself cutting 50 lb of onions on Facebook a couple weeks ago, I got many people asking me the same question: did you have to wear goggles to prevent the tears from pouring down. The answer is, if you cut the onions the right way, you don't get teary. Allium species including onions, garlic, chives, and leeks are able to synthesize a unique set of secondary sulfur metabolites derived from the amino acid cysteine. When the tissue in the onions are crushed during chopping, an enzyme called alliinase is activated to break down the amino acid-based compound S-alkyl-L-cysteine S-oxide (alliin) to an alkylated sulfenic acid and 2-aminoacrylate. When two sulfenic acid molecules condense, they produce a  new compound called allicinSulfenic acid will bind to another enzyme, lachrymatory factor synthase (LFS), producing a volatile compound, propanthial S-oxide, a.k.a., the tear-inducing factor that makes you cry like a baby. 
     I have heard of some absurd ways to reduce the unpleasant eye irritation caused by onions. Like, cutting onions in water, or chill the onions before cutting (to slow down the activities of the enzymes in onion), or just wear a pair of ski goggles. I have tried some of the methods above. Some worked, some didn't. And then one day in my cooking class, I finally learned the most legit and reliable way of cutting onions without getting teary. The key is, to cut along the grains of the onion, so that you crush the min. amount of cells which in turn will release the min. amount of lachrymatory factors. Since then, I have passed the trick to many people around me who suffered the eye irritations by onions. But judged from the confused looks on my friends' faces after they got my verbal description, I decided to make a quick sketch to illustrate what I mean by cutting onions "the right way". This by no means the only way to cut onions. But at least to me, I now seldom shed a tear while cutting these troublemakers.

After Step 4 in the illustration, you will get diced onions. If you want to get really small dices, you need a Step 5 to slice the onion horizontallyImagine the cuts in Step 3 are on the x axis, cuts in Step 4 are on the y axis, then Step 5 would be on the z axis, perpendicular to Step 3 and 4.  If you want to julienne the onions to get slices, stop at Step 3. If you want onion rings on your burgers or something else, you need to halve the onion along its waist to get a cross section in Step 1.