Brown Basmati Rice & Lentil Pilau with Fenugreek

In my small town where I only find flat leaf parsley once a year, yes in my garden, you can imagine my disbelief. Fenugreek? I checked the label again and, yes it is fenugreek. Strangely I made a quinoa and lentil pilau, or pilaf as many say, only a few days ago that asked for a cup of chopped fenugreek. I simply omitted it. I have never tasted fresh fenugreek and to make a substitution was unnecessary. There was already lots of flavour.

This reminds me of when I found fresh Black Mission figs at the peak of ripeness. The bewildered produce manager had no idea how one would eat them. I bought a case. They were chopped and added to my farmers’ market loaves. I enjoyed them with a lovely chevre drizzled with local honey. I preserved jam and chutney. That was two years ago.

And then there was the time I found halloumi cheese. I had barely moved to town and was not familiar with anything let alone the standard fare at the grocery stores. I was suitably impressed but that was it. Once. Ditto with angostura bitters. That same Christmas there was an impressive display of angostura bitters. Wish I had bought a few bottles. I have not seen it since.

I looked again at my pilau recipe and it was indeed fenugreek that had been called for. Coincidentally I am making the pilau, this time with brown basmati rice, for a catering gig. Did I dare use the fenugreek? What would it taste like? 

How could I not buy it? I’m sure I’ll never see it again.

Brown Basmati Rice and Lentil Pilau

2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1/2 cup cooked green lentils
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped fenugreek
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon each of mustard seeds and cumin seeds
4 curry leaves
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon raw cashews
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, to taste

Cook the rice and lentils separately. I cook both of them like I cook pasta, with lots of water. I drain them when they are cooked but still firm and lay a clean tea towel over them to steam for a few minutes.

Heat oil in a wide saute pan on medium heat. Add mustard and cumin seeds. When they begin to pop add the cashews and toast. Add turmeric, curry leaves, coriander and saute for a minute or two. Add shallots and carrots. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes.

Add rice and lentils. Mix thoroughly. Cover and heat on lowest setting for 8 - 10 minutes or they can be placed in a 325F oven in a covered pot for about 20 minutes.

Fenugreek (/ˈfɛnjʉɡriːk/; Trigonella foenum-graecum) is an annual plant in the family Fabaceae with leaves consisting of three small obovate to oblong leaflets. It is cultivated worldwide as a semi-arid crop, and its seeds are a common ingredient in dishes from the Indian Subcontinent. (Wikipedia)

It has a green herbaceous flavour with a slight bitterness. It is very mild in this dish. 


Ricotta Semifreddo with Sea Buckthorn for Easter

This month we are planning an Easter meal. I have the dessert course. I tried to remember the last time I had an Easter dinner. Our family doesn't get together.  This is my Easter dinner. Come dine with me and enjoy all the fabulous recipes my friends are bringing to the table.

Sea buckthorn are berries that I adore. Not only do they have a long list of nutrients including all the omegas, yes ALL the omegas, they are delicious. Every chance I get I add them to my menu. This delicious semifreddo is just great all on its own but a fruit or berry garnish add that je ne sais quois. Simply simmer the berries in a heavy sugar syrup. Check out all those wonderful vanilla bean specks. Vanilla bean accentuates sea buckthorn perfectly.

Oh, and we have another person at the table. Shelby of Grumpy's Honeybunch is now with us. She was a member at the beginning of this club. And now she is back. Welcome, Shelby.

So here's the menu

Ricotta Semifreddo with Sea Buckthorn

1/2 cup sugar 
1/4 cup 2% milk 
1/4 cup honey 
1/2 teaspoon freeze dried sea buckthorn puree
1 vanilla bean
1/8 teaspoon salt 
3 ounces cream cheese, softened 
16 fl.oz. (500 mL) container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup chilled heavy cream 
1/4 cup fresh or frozen sea buckthorn berries 
2 tablespoons sugar
  1. Line a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap. Cook the berries in 1/2 cup water with sugar for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Combine 1/2 cup sugar, milk, honey, freeze dried sea buckthorn, seeds from one vanilla bean pod, 1/8 teaspoon salt, cream cheese, and ricotta in a blender; process until smooth. Pour the mixture into a large bowl. Pour cream into a medium bowl, and beat with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/4 cup whipped cream into ricotta mixture. Fold in the remaining cream.
  3. Spoon mixture into prepared loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and freeze at least 8 hours or until set. Remove semifreddo from freezer, and let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes. Discard top piece of plastic wrap. Invert loaf pan onto a serving platter, and tap to remove semifreddo. Discard the remaining plastic wrap, and slice semifreddo crosswise. Serve with sea buckthorn berries in syrup.


Saskatoon Berry Madeleines

The day after I made these madeleines I took them to the school where I was the substitute teacher. These 6 children on the Colony were my tasting panel. "What is the secret ingredient?" I asked. Well, they said saskatoons and lemons, which of course, I told them were no secret at all. Those were the bold flavours. They could not taste anything unusual or different. They loved these. That is my proof that the lentil flour was a success in this recipe.

A madeleine is a small French butter cake. They are almost like a little cupcake. They can be mixed up in advance, cooked in just a few minutes and are a sure crowd pleaser for any party. They are very 'fashion forward'. Simple, rich and flavourful desserts are in vogue. I had fresh out of the oven madeleines with a chocolate dipping sauce at a very chi chi restaurant last month. I loved the warm and fresh little cakes. It felt decadent and did not break my budget.

Saskatoon berries are a favourite on the Canadian prairies and northern plains of the United States. They are so unique that they have been added to the Slow Food Ark of Taste. The Ark honours foods and food preparation styles that are unique to an area and something we would never want to lose.

The saskatoons have a unique flavour reminescent of blueberries but less sweet and a 'je ne sais quois' that is impossible to describe. Needless to say they are a strong favourite and a coveted experience for anyone visiting the region. The berry is dry and lends itself to baking in batters.

Canadian Lentils has a recipe challenge until April 7.  Pop on over to view all the interesting recipes and 'like' mine so I have a better chance to win some prizes. This is my entry in the Dessert category. I am incorporating the lentils in the flour ingredients. This is my final entry for this contest. I have been cooking with and eating lentils for the past month, and you know what, I like them. I had no idea how many adaptations I could make to incorporate lentils into my recipes.

Green lentils grind easily in a blender to produce a cornmeal textured flour. I have a VitaMix blender and it ground a cup of lentils in less than a minute. Sieve it if you would like a finer flour.

I can see many applications for this flour.

Lentils are naturally gluten-free.  They add a raft of nutrients and dietary fibre. The flavour of green lentils is peppery and works well in many recipes.

This recipe is almost gluten free! These are best served right out of the oven. Rich and delicious. The tart lemon glaze is perfect to compliment the rich and intense flavour of saskatoon berries.

Saskatoon Berry Madeleines

3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup lentil flour, sieved
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
zest of one lemon
2/3 cup saskatoon berries
3/4 cup melted butter, cooled to room temperature plus more to grease pans
3/4 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Brush madeleine pan with melted butter. Dust with flour and tap out excess. Refrigerate. I tried both all purpose flour and lentil flour for dusting the pan and I prefer the lentil flour. It is easiest to use a sieve and dust it over the pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip eggs, sugar and salt for 5 minutes until frothy.

Whisk flour with baking powder. Fold egg mixture into flour with spatula.

Add lemon zest to cooled butter and slowly pour butter into batter while gently folding the batter. Fold just until all butter is incorporated.

Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. These were in the refrigerator overnight.

To bake, preheat oven to 425F. Fill indentations in madeleine pan about 3/4 full, approximately 1 large tablespoon. Don't spread out the batter. Just leave it in a clump. I found that a 1 1/2 inch ice cream scoop was the perfect size.

Bake 10-12 minutes or until cakes feel set. While cakes are baking make the glaze by stirring together icing sugar, lemon juice and enough water to make it smooth.

Remove from oven. Carefully loosen each cake with a table knife while still hot. Cool for a couple of minutes and empty pan onto a cooling rack. The berries can stick to the pan so be gentle. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, dip each cake into the glaze. I only dipped the bottom side but you can do both sides if you wish.  Scrape off excess glaze. Place on rack to cool and let glaze set.

Best served immediately. Can be kept in a container up to 3 days. Do not freeze with the glaze. The glaze will melt.


    The Secret Recipe for Pickled Eggs


    I have a friend with an organic hen and egg operation. Last winter he was left with an over supply of eggs and asked if I would help him out by making pickled eggs. I had never done this before nor do I eat pickled eggs. No matter, I helped him out. This was our favourite recipe.

    Pickled eggs
    Stale eggs peel much more easily than fresh eggs. Pickled eggs are a great snack, easily sliced into a salad, can be made into devilled eggs or a sandwich. Add flavourings such as curry or hot dried peppers.
    12 hard boiled eggs, peeled
    1 c. pickling vinegar 250 mL
    1 1/2 c. water 500 mL
    1 tbsp. sugar 15 mL
    2 tsp. pickling spice 10 mL
    1 tsp. kosher salt 5 mL
    Yellow or white onions, thinly sliced in rings
    Combine vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spices and salt in small saucepan.
    Bring to boil, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
    Place eggs in jar layered with sliced raw onions. Pour hot liquid over to fill jar. Seal jar with lid.
    Refrigerate for at least four days before using. Pickled eggs will keep for a month or more in the refrigerator. Serve with slices of onion from the jar.
    To make hard-boiled eggs place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan. Cover with at least 1-inch (2.5 cm) cold water over top of the eggs. Cover saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Immediately remove pan from heat. With lid on, let eggs sit in hot water for 12 minutes. Drain and immediately put eggs in cold water until cooled. Crack the blunt end of the egg and then peel with a spoon.

    Oven Back Ribs with Baked Beans

    Real ribs are made in a smoker cooking low and slow. It is winter and I don't feel like lighting up the barbecue. These ribs made in the oven are pretty darned good, too.

    Baked beans are an excellent side dish. I made them in a slow cooker.  Rather than soaking the beans overnight and slow cooking them all day I did the opposite. It was mid-day before I thought to make them. I put them to soak and before I went to bed I assembled all the ingredients in the slow cooker and let them cook all night. The only drawback is that around 2am I was awakened by the wonderful aroma. If they had been ready I would have eaten a meal then and there. Glad they weren't done!

    Oven Pork Baby Back Ribs

    1/2 tbsp. smoked paprika
    1/2 tbsp. ground coriander
    1/2 tbsp. ground cumin
    1/2 tbsp. kosher salt
    1/2 tbsp. black pepper
    1/2 tbsp. ground ancho chiles
    1/2 tbsp. dry mustard
    1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
    1/4 c. canola oil

    Mix all spices together in a small bowl. This makes enough for 2 racks of ribs.

    Prepare the ribs by removing the shiny thin skin on the back called the silver skin. Trim off  2 or 3 ribs from the small end and 1 rib from the large end to make a more even rack. It will cook more evenly. The cut pieces can be cooked along with the racks.

    Brush ribs with oil and rub with spice mixture. Place in a plastic bag for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.

    When ready to cook, preheat oven to 300F. Place ribs on a baking sheet and bake in oven. After the first hour, baste with the 'mop'. Baste again after an hour. After 3 - 4 hours baking they should be ready to serve.

    This is a basting liquid to keep the ribs moist while they slowly cook. It is traditionally applied with a brush called a mop.

    1/2 c. barbecue sauce
    1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
    1 tbsp. light brown sugar
    2 tbsp. apricot jam
    1/4 c. apple or apricot juice or water

    Bring to a boil over medium heat to melt all ingredients and cool to room temperature.

    Baked Beans
    Panela is a Mexican unrefined natural sugar. It has a molasses flavour. Substitute with 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tablespoon molasses.
    3 c. dried navy beans
    1/4 c. panela brown sugar
    1 c. low sodium tomato juice
    1/2 lb. pork belly or thick cut bacon, chopped
    2 c. chopped yellow onion
    2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
    1/2 tsp. dry mustard
    1 dried chipotle pepper
    2 tsp. salt
    Pepper, to taste

    Soak the beans overnight in enough water to cover by 3 inches. Drain.

    Add tomato juice, panela, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, dried pepper and dry mustard in slow cooker set on high with the lid on until the sugar is dissolved.

    Layer the soaked beans with the bacon and onion. I make about 3 layers. Add enough water to cover the beans. Cook on low for 6 - 7 hours or until tender.


    Scotch Eggs

    Peeling eggs is one of the first things we learn in the kitchen. So I thought. I have been making pickled eggs for a friend that has a free range chicken operation. Please, don't give me all your tips on peeling eggs. I know them all. But these present a unique challenge. Is it the extra hard shell? Is it the extra strong inner membrane?

    I felt like a complete failure in the simple task of peeling eggs.

    We all know that stale eggs peel easier. We all know that the cooked eggs should be plunged into an ice bath until fully chilled. We all know that we should crack the blunt end of the egg and slip under the membrane. Using logic I can peel an egg.

    Free range organic eggs are a whole other animal. Stale, chill, blunt crack and I am still not getting a clean peel. By chance I received a tip that changed my life. Use a spoon. So simple. Since I have been using a spoon to peel my eggs they are almost perfect. Tuck that tip in your recipe box.

    Scotch Eggs

    Scotch Eggs originated from a need for hearty travel food. I used a lean spiced pork sausage and panko bread crumbs. Use oil with a high smoke point such as canola or peanut oil.
    4 eggs, boiled
    3 large sausages, preferably a lean spicy Italian style
    1 c. flour 250 mL
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1 c. breadcrumbs 250 mL
    Frying oil
    Put eggs in pot and fill with cold water. Place on heat and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and cover. Let sit for 12 minutes. Then remove eggs to an ice water bath until fully chilled. 
    Prepare the sausage by squeezing from casing and forming into 4 balls. Flatten each ball into a thin patty. Place flour, egg and breadcrumbs into separate bowls.
    Peel eggs and dry thoroughly. Wrap each egg in sausage and pinch so there are no holes exposing the egg. Roll in flour, then egg and finally breadcrumbs.
    Cook one or two at a time in oil heated to 350-375F in a deep pot. Turn occasionally if they are not totally submerged in oil. Fry until very browned. Remove and drain on paper towel lined plate. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serve with catsup, mustard or plain.
    Prepare 3 dishes. One with flour, another with beaten egg and finally one with breadcrumbs. Meanwhile heat a pot of oil to 350-3750F.