Easy Spicy Focaccia with Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Paul Hollywood’s focaccia recipe is a winner.

Focaccia bread make the best sandwiches. They’re so springy and full of lovely pockets of air just begging to soak up all of the flavours. Imagine filling these fluffy Italian breads with roasted veggies and pesto OR grilled meats or salami and cheese, like mozarella and provolone. The possibilities! If sandwiches aren’t your thing, they’re just as good for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar OR eaten with a big, hearty bowl of soup.

Now, this focaccia that I made…it’s quite spicy. My whole body broke into sweats while eating it.  If you can’t take the heat replace the scotch bonnet peppers with something milder! OR not.

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Scotch Bonnet Focaccia 

From Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia recipe  on BBC Food 

Ingredients

Bread
500g/1lb 2oz/3-4 cups of strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 sachets dried easy blend yeast OR 30 g of fresh yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml/14fl oz/1 1/2 – 2 cups of cold water

Topping
olive oil, for drizzling
fine sea salt
1 scotch bonnet pepper, julienned and seeds removed

Preparation

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. (If using fresh yeast dissolve the yeast in water first.) Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.

Rub some oil on your hands and stretch the dough in the bowl by tucking the sides into the centre. Turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a deep baking dish (I used a 9 x 9-inch tray) with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten it a bit, careful not to pop the air bubbles. Sprinkle the peppers on top then leave to proof for 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingers, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes. You’ll know it’s done by tapping the bottom of the bread and hear a hollow sound. Once cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.

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Bon appetit!

Toronto Eats: Kub Khao

The opening of Kub Khao Thai Eatery in Scarborough is a game changer. Before this, good Thai food used to be something we had to schlep to the downtown core for, all while suffering through interminably long subway rides, incessant track work delays or slow-moving streetcars. But not anymore! Now we get to contend with the bus system!

Presently, Kub Khao is in a plaza at Birchmount and Sheppard with a striking view of the gas station. Scenery aside, this little restaurant and take out spot, promising lemongrass-scented coconut curries, caramelized grilled meats (the kind with the burnt crispy edges–yum!), pad thai and noodles, warm soups (khao soi, tom yum) and all sorts of heavenly goodies (fried chicken, curry puffs, chicken toast, etc), has so much variety on the menu that it’s almost impossible to settle on just one thing. This means repeated visits will be very, very necessary.

Am I already in love with Kub Khao? Yes. Yes, I am.

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Sautéed Herbed Chanterelles

Chanterelles mushrooms with thyme and marjoram

Back when I was living alone, sautéed mushrooms over toast or rice was one of my favourite late night meals. It was fast, easy and perfect on evenings when I craved something light. Though you could fancy it up with a splash of wine or enrich with cream, I think chanterelle mushrooms are best eaten simply.

My herbs of choice for that night were thyme, a woodsy and classic pairing for mushrooms, as well as marjoram, a fragrant and lemony herb similar to oregano.

Sautéed Herbed Chanterelles
A recipe for one 

Ingredients
4 to 5 chanterelles
3 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup of vegetable stock
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 sprig of marjoram
1 sprig of thyme

Preparation
Melt butter in a pan over medium-high heat. Fry the garlic until fragrant, about 1 minute or less. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are lightly golden, stirring occassionally. Add the herbs and vegetable stock and continue cooking until the mushrooms become tender and most of the liquid have been reduced. Remove the wilted herbs and serve as is, over toast or rice or pasta. Garnish with more thyme and marjoram.

Montreal: Les 400 Coups Restaurant

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Eaten back in August for a bridesmaid dinner: Tomato gazpacho, salmon with pickled green strawberries, beef cheeks ravioli, lamb with mint purée, and an assortment of sorbets (rhubarb, peach, strawberry and blueberry), finishing with some petits fours and marshmallows. If all dinners could be at Les 400 Coups…!

Les 400 Coups Restaurant
400 Notre-Dame Est, Montreal | Website 

Easy Basmati Rice with Raisins and Crispy Onions

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Growing up in a Chinese household, it’s impossible to imagine a day where rice was not part of our regular dinners. Everyday. Without fail. Plain white rice to go with stews, curries, stir frys. Sometimes congee (rice porridge). On very, very special occasions my grandmother would make biryanis, an Indian dish of basmati rice cooked with curry spices and vegetables or meat…usually with a good amount of ghee (Indian clarified butter). She would start in the morning, peeling and cooking the potatoes, searing the meats (usually beef), warming up the spices, etc… By late afternoon the whole kitchen would smell fragrant… I drool each time I think about it.

Grandma’s biryani was definitely one of things I missed the most when I lived abroad. Stuck in student residence, the closest I got to making biryani-like dishes was by making Ottolenghi’s Cardamom Chicken, which used some of the same spices and method. It never reached the same level of depth and warmth that I craved, but it was always just enough to keep me happy. (If you’re on a student budget and looking for a one-pot meal, Cardamom Chicken is a real winner for ease and quantity!) Here, I’ve reduced it as a side by keeping it to just rice, raisins and onions.

Basmati Rice with Raisins and Crispy Onions

  • Servings: 3-4 people
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 cup of basmati rice
1 1/2 cups of water
1/4 cup of dried raisins
1 large onion, sliced
2-3 tablespoons of flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup of sunflower or canola oil
Sliced green onions, optional

Preparation

Peel the onion and cut into thin slices. Toss in a bowl with the flour and a pinch of salt. Mix well. Heat the oil in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high. Add half of the onions into the pan to fry for 5 to 7 minutes. Stir occasionally with a slotted spoon, until the onions take on a nice golden brown color and turn crispy. Adjust the temperature as you go, making sure the onion doesn’t burn. Transfer the onion to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with a little more salt. Do the same with the other batch of onion.

Clean the saucepan and add some more oil. Stir in the basmati rice and let it toast for about one minute before adding the water and the raisins. Bring the pan to a boil, cover with a lid, and let simmer over very low heat for 15 minutes or more. Usually, you’ll be able to tell it’s cooked through when you see uniforms of pockets throughout the rice.

Remove the pan from the heat, lift off the lid, and quickly cover with a clean tea towel. Seal tightly with the lid and set aside for 10 minutes. Once it has rested, add the fried onions and stir gently with a fork. Top with some sliced green onions if desired.

Ihaw-Ihaw at Kanto by Tita Flips

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A few years ago I had the pleasure of eating Filipino food for the first time at Diona Joyce‘s Kanto by Tita Flips, one of the many bright food stalls at Market 707 on Dundas and Bathurst streets. If like me you haven’t had a lot of experience with Filipino food, I couldn’t recommend a better person to visit. Everything we’ve had at Kanto has always been carefully prepared, and the flavour combinations blows my mind each time; there’s always the right amount of sweetness and/or acidity that balances out. So far at Kanto we’ve had the lechon (roast pork), sisig (offal, boiled and grilled and then turned to crunchy bits) on top of fries, ukoy (squash fritters), balut (fertilized duck egg), lumpia sariwa (vegetables rolled in very thin crepes), and palabok (noodles coated in golden shrimp sauce).

Last summer, Diona introduced ihaw-ihaw, grilled and barbecue foods (usually meat and seafood). I missed the whole thing because I was away for school, and I almost missed the summer ihaw-ihaw again because of work this year. But the last ihaw-ihaw–don’t you love that word?–coincided on the first week I didn’t have to work late. There were some skewers on special, but my eyes were big and my stomach hungry, so we ordered the prix-fixe. It came with grilled fish, pork, chicken, squid….and an unlimited supply of garlic rice, salads and calamansi (Filipino lime) iced tea. I couldn’t think of a better way to end the day.

If you missed the ihaw-ihaw this year, make sure to check it out next summer!

More about Kanto by Tita Flips on my old blog and visit to TO Food Fest 2013.

Kanto by Tita Flips
707 Dundas Street West | Website