Friday, May 31, 2013

Coronation Chicken: A British Royal Favourite

The Queen reaches an historic anniversary this weekend on June 2, as she celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of her Coronation. There are a number of modern dishes named after British Royalty, suggesting that the alliance between royalty and British food has been strong for hundreds of years. The names often stem from a single event, such as Coronation Chicken and Crêpes Suzette, through physical similarities like Crown of Lamb, or simply named because the dish was fit for a Queen, such as Queen of Puddings. Often however they're named after a King or Queen who favoured the food, such as Victoria Sponge and Fillet of Beef Prince Albert.

Queen Elizabeth II at her Coronation in 1953

Crêpes Suzette was created by Henri Charpentier in 1895 for the Prince of Wales 
whose guests included a beautiful French girl named Suzette

Crown of Lamb - a crowning glory to any special dinner

Prince Albert Fillet of Beef is a method of preparing a fillet of beef, 
named in honour of the husband of Queen Victoria

Victoria Sponge was a particular favourite of Queen Victoria

Queen of Puddings is a traditional British dessert dating back to the seventeenth century

Constance Spry

The famous Coronation Chicken served at the Queen’s coronation lunch in 1953 is attributed to Rosemary Hume, founder of the Cordon Bleu Cooking School in London, although the credit is sometimes grabbed by one Constance Spry, a social-climbing society florist. In 1946, Spry opened a Domestic Science School with Rosemary Hume, already an accomplished cook. In 1953, Spry was commissioned to arrange the flowers at Westminster Abbey and along the processional route from Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth II's coronation. The Winkfield students were asked to cater a lunch for foreign delegates for whom Hume invented a new dish – Coronation chicken. Popular lore has it that the recipe is based on a similarly rich and spicy royal relation, Jubilee Chicken, prepared for the Silver Jubilee of George V in 1935, which mixed the chicken in mayonnaise and curry.

The Queen sixty years later

Coronation Chicken, originally called Poulet Reine Elizabeth, was designed to be a compromise between exotic spices and inexpensive ingredients, a reflection at the time, of the colonial nature of the British Empire, so includes fruit, curry and mayonnaise. The original recipe was published in the newspapers ahead of the coronation so that the 'common' people might partake of what their new queen would be eating on her very special day. Whether it's Rosemary Hume's original 1953 recipe or my modern twist on the time honoured classic, this Sunday seems like to perfect day to recreate one of the Queen's favourites.

Modern Coronation Chicken Salad
Serves 6

My modern interpretation of the time honoured classic -

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp mild curry powder
2 tbsp sunflower oil
salt & pepper
1 cup red seedless grapes, halved
6 stalks celery, very finely chopped
1 container of onion, pea or clover sprouts
1/2 cup pecan, toasted

4 tbsp mayonnaise
1 cup Creme Fraiche
1/2 cup mango chutney
2 tbsp curry powder

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rub the chicken with oil, curry powder, salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until cooked through. Allow to rest for 10 minutes then pull into bite size pieces. Allow to cool completely before adding to your salad.

Mix the ingredients for the dressing very well. Mix the cooled chicken, celery, grapes, and half the alfalfa shoots with the dressing. Serve the Coronation Chicken Salad over mixed salad greens and garnish with alfalfa sprouts, grapes, pecans and some diced celery.

Original 1952 Coronation Chicken
Serves 6

The original coronation chicken recipe, concieved by Rosemary Hume for Elizabeth II's Coronation lunch in 1953 -

2 medium chickens
1 carrot
Thyme, bay leaf, parsley and 4 peppercorns to flavour
1 dessertspoon curry powder
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp tomato purée
1 glass red wine
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 cups mayonnaise
1-2 tbsp apricot purée
2-3 tbsp whipped cream

Poach two chickens for 40 minutes in water with the carrot, a splash of wine, thyme, bay leaf, parsley and four peppercorns. Cool in the liquid then remove the meat from the bones. To make the sauce, heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add two tablespoons of chopped onion. Cook gently for three minutes then add a dessertspoon of curry powder. Cook for a further two minutes. Add one teaspoon of tomato purée, a glass of red wine, 3/4 wineglass of water, one bay leaf, and bring to the boil. Then add a pinch each of salt, sugar and pepper, the juice of 1/2 a lemon and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Strain and cool. Add slowly to the mayonnaise, then stir in 1-2 tablespoons of apricot purée. Season again – the sauce must not be too sweet. Finish by adding 2-3 tablespoons of whipped cream. Add only enough sauce to coat the chicken lightly, then eat it with a rice salad or serve in sandwiches. 

Crepes Suzette
Serves 4-6

3 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp grated orange rind
1/3 cup orange juice
3 tbsp grand marnier, or cointreau or triple sec

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1/3 cup whole milk
1/3 cup water
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

In a large bowl, whisk the flour with the salt and set aside. In small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water and 1 tbsp of the butter until it becomes the consistency of 10% cream, adding up to 2 tbsp more water if too thick. Pour over the dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth. Strain through fine sieve into bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour. Stir before using.

Heat an 8-inch crepe pan or skillet over medium-low heat. Brush lightly with some of the remaining butter. For each crepe, pour 1/4 cup of batter into the centre of the pan, swirling to coat. Pour out any excess batter. Cook, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and round off the edge of crepe if batter was poured off. These can be made ahead: layer between waxed paper and wrap in plastic wrap. They can be refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen in an airtight container for up to 1 month, but must be defrosted and brought back to room temperature before using.

In large skillet, melt sugar with butter over medium heat. Add orange rind, orange juice and 1 tbsp of orange liqueur. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add 1 crepe to the skillet, turning to coat. Using tongs, fold the crepe into quarters and move to side of skillet. Repeat with the remaining crepes, overlapping around the edge of pan. Drizzle with the remaining liqueur. Remove from heat and ignite pan. When flame subsides, serve the crepes immediately, garnished with strips of orange zest.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Moules Mariniere: A Brasserie Classic

Wine, cream, and butter — the holy trinity of any devout epicurean. Together they produce a mighty potion rich enough to enhance any dish. One of my favourites is Moules Mariniere, a classic dish found in brasseries throughout the world. The essentials are simple: cook chopped leeks in an abundance of butter, add a dollop or two of white wine, lashings of parsley and a final flourish of light cream. Difficult? Hardly. Expensive? Not at all. Mussels are only $2.99/lb, but you'll need a reasonably good bottle of white wine, both for the broth and for quaffing afterwards. Moules is an easy dish that can be prepared in no time at all, and it's delicious, especially with a loaf of crusty bread to sop up the addictively delicious sauce. If you're feel sufficiently motivated, you can also make your own french fries for a traditional "moules-frites." Mon Dieu.

Leeks sautéed with butter and thyme, and seasoned with salt and white pepper

White wine and mussels are added and covered over medium-high 4 or 5 minutes

Once the shells have opened, they're ready to serve

Moules Mariniere
Serves 2

1 lb mussels, de-beard and kept chilled until using
2 leeks, rinsed and thinly sliced
1 handful of fresh thyme
1 cup white wine
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tbsp butter
kosher salt and white pepper
3 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Crusty French bread, for serving

In a large heavy-bottomed pot with a lid, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the leeks, season with salt and white pepper and sauté until translucent, about 5 or 6 minutes. Then add the wine and fresh thyme, and stir to combine. Once the wine is bubbling, add the mussels and give them a stir to coat. Cover and turn the heat up to medium-high, and continue cooking 4 to 5 minutes, or until the mussels have opened up. Those that haven't, you should discard. Add the cream and parsley, and give it all a good stir. Serve the moules in one large bowl or portion into two warmed dinner bowls. Ladle the sauce overtop and garnish with some additional chopped parsley. Be sure to mop up the sauce with a loaf of warm crusty bread — delicieux!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creamy Broccoli, Cauliflower & Leek Soup with Stilton

This rich and creamy Broccoli, Cauliflower & Leek Soup is a delicious and heartwarming dish on a chilly night, and gets an extra boost of flavour from some crumbled stilton, the creamy blue-veined British favourite. Of course, if you really like blue cheese, crumble a bit more on top with a swirl of cream, for a luxurious starter, or serve with a knob of warm crusty bread for a simple and easy weekday dinner.

Creamy Broccoli, Cauliflower & Leek Soup with Stilton
Serves 4

4 tbsp butter
3 large leeks, rinsed and sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 head of cauliflower, chopped into florets
1 head of broccoli, chopped into florets
1/2 cup fresh parsley, rinsed and chopped 
4 cups chicken stock 
Kosher salt and white pepper
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup stilton or gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
parsley to garnish

Sauté the leeks and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook another 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium. Add the broccoli cauliflower and parsley, and season with salt and pepper. cook covered for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and fork tender. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to cool sufficiently before puréeing. Using a hand-held immersion or standing blender, purée until smooth. Pour the soup back into the saucepan and stir in the cream and cheese, mixing well to combine. Rewarm the soup on medium-low. Ladle the soup into pre-warmed bowls, garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve with some warm crusty bread.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Baked Eggplant Chermoula with Grain Salad & Yoghurt

Inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's Chermoula Aubergine with Bulgar and Yoghurt from his newest cookbook Jerusalem, I made this easy and delicious vegetarian dish which I served with Grilled BC Red Snapper. Served separately, both the aubergine and the bulgar salad are excellent with the Greek yoghurt, but all three together are a match made in food heaven. Chermoula is a mixture of spices used in North African cooking, often to season fish. Here it’s rubbed over eggplant, which is then roasted and topped with a Middle Eastern salad of bulgur wheat and herbs, something like tabbouleh. "It’s a hybrid that could only happen in Jerusalem."

A fascinating cookbook which explores the history, 
culture and people of Jerusalem through its varied cuisines

The unpredictable and exciting culinary combinations of the city's diverse Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities are at the heart of Jerusalem, which Ottolenghi wrote with his friend and business partner Sami Tamimi. Both men grew up on opposite sides of the city in the 1970s: Tamimi as a Palestinian in East Jerusalem and Ottolenghi in Jewish West Jerusalem, but didn’t meet until years later in London. Away from their birthplace for 20 years, they began to reminisce about the foods and flavours of their childhood, and the resulting cookbook is an exploration of their cross-cultural childhood. Although food in Jerusalem is influenced by the incalculable number of cultures and subcultures that make up the city, there are some distinct food traditions. Everybody uses chopped cucumbers and tomatoes to make a salad; stuffed vegetables are eaten regularly; and olive oil, lemon juice and olives are ubiquitous. Popular local ingredients include okra, cauliflower, artichokes, beets, eggplant, figs, lemons, pomegranates, plums and apricots. So in keeping with these diverse culinary combinations, I created this Baked Eggplant and BC Red Snapper Chermoula with Mediterranean Grain Salad and Yoghurt finished with a Greek Kalamata Balsamic and Fig Glaze, for my sensational cross-cultural feast!

The dry ingredients of the Chermoula rub: garlic, cilantro, salt, paprika, 
ground coriander and cumin

Olive oil and lemon juice are then added to the mixture and puréed

The Chermoula marinade is simply whizzed together in a small food processor then slathered over the snapper and chilled for an hour or so, to let the flavours develop. Meanwhile, a small eggplant is sliced in half and scored in a criss-cross pattern, and brushed with the remaining marinade. The eggplant is simply roasted in a 425°F oven for 45 minutes. While the eggplant is baking, you can make the Mediterranean Grain Salad, or cheat as I did and buy some good quality store-bought grain salad. 

Two BC Red Snapper Fillets

The snapper is coated with the Chermoula marinade and chilled for a few hours

An eggplant is sliced in half then scored in a criss-cross pattern

The tops of the eggplant are brushed with the remaining marinade

Eggplant Chermoula with Greek Yogurt and garnished with cilantro and chive blossoms

Greek Kalamata Balsamic and Fig Glaze

I finished the dish with Kalamata Balsamic Glaze, which is a delicious smooth cream with a distinct sweet and slightly sour taste, that's perfect for drizzling over salads, vegetables, poultry or seafood, as a great for a final flourish when plating a meal. It's one of my favourite new discoveries.

Moroccan Red Snapper & Baked Eggplant Chermoula
Serves 2

2 fillets BC red snapper
1 cup Greek yoghurt

1 medium eggplant
Balsamic & Fig Glaze, for garnish

Chermoula Marinade:
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for garnish
1/2 tsp kosher sea salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°F. To make the chermoula, mix together the garlic, cilantro, salt, cumin, paprika, ground coriander and lemon juice in a food processor and blend until combined. Gradually add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mixture emulsifies.

Place the snapper fillets in non-metallic baking dish, and coat with half of the marinade, ensuring that the fish is coated well on both sides. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and score the flesh of each half with diagonal, crisscross lines, making sure not to pierce the skin. Spoon the remaining chermoula over each half, spreading it evenly, and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes, or until the aubergines are very soft.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium-high or set the oven to 425°F. Cook the fish 15-20 minutes, or to your desired level of doneness. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve with the Baked Eggplant.

Serve the aubergines warm or at room temperature. Place one half-aubergine per portion on a serving plate, spoon some homemade or store-bought grain salad on top, allowing some to fall over the sides, spoon over a little yoghurt, sprinkle with chopped coriander and finish with a dribble of olive oil or Kalamata Balsamic & Fig Glaze.

Mediterranean Grain Salad
Serves 4

1/4 cup barley
1 cup wheat berries
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup pitted, halved kalamata olives
1/2 cup finely grated feta cheese
1/2 cup small diced cucumber
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes slicked in half
1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped dill

1/4 cup red wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the barley and cook for 15 minutes. Add the wheat berries and quinoa and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 30 minutes until done. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and allow to cool down. When cool, combine with the remaining ingredients and toss gently. To make the dressing, whisk together the vinegar, garlic and lemon juice in a small food processor. Gradually add the olive oil while the machine is running until the mixture emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour half of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine thoroughly. Serve with the remaining dressing on the side.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

An all time favourite, these old fashioned peanut butter cookies, with their classic criss-cross imprint on top, are absolutely irresistible. These are one of the cookies that my Mom used to make when I was very small and still holds a special place in my heart, and now in my husband's tummy!

Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

Makes about 36 cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter, crunchy or smooth
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda

Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars in a standing mixer until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Gradually stir into the batter to blend. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place about 2-inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork, flatten the balls by making criss-cross marks on top. 
Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes or until the bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To store, layer the cookies between layers of waxed paper in an airtight container, and cover. Store at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Good luck with that! These disappeared in 3 days.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Fifth Grill & Terrace: A Romantic Warehouse Gem

Converted from a turn-of-the-century warehouse with original post and beam ceilings, wide plank floors, exposed piping and old 1902 freight elevator that whisks guests up to the beautiful fifth floor rooftop restaurant, The Fifth Grill & Terrace feels like a private downtown loft, but is actually a hidden gem and without a doubt, one of the city's most romantic restaurants. A perfect blend of classic steakhouse and refined French cuisine, The Fifth is an experience not to be missed, from its spectacular views, warm elegant French country décor and exceptional service, to its wonderful steak and seafood menu, it's an absolutely perfect setting for any occasion.

The original 1902 private freight elevator whisks guests up to the elegant fifth floor restaurant

The warm eclectic décor and handsome zinc bar of the min floor nightclub, 
The Fifth Social Club - with complimentary access to those dining upstairs 
and want to hit the dance floor afterwards!

Accessed from the south side of the building at the corner of Richmond and Duncan, guests are greeted by a friendly doorman-cum-buncer who directs patrons past the velvet roped entrance, though the main floor nightclub and escorted up an original pull-down, wood-slat elevator manned by a handsome fellow who swoops us up to the elegant dining room and heated year-round rooftop terrace. A refined urban oasis, The Fifth has been called a 'glamorous hideaway' with one of the best 'patios' in the city. 

The warm colours and gentle ambient lighting of the main dining room

The bustling kitchen of Chef Brad Livergant 

We began our evening with a round of martinis and a tasty cocktail called 'Le Canadien,' a potent combination of Canadian whisky, Angostura bitters and maple syrup. Enjoying our drinks, we perused the menu which features appetizers that include East Coast Oysters, Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Chilled Atlantic Lobster to Beef Carpaccio, Foie Gras, a selection of Salads and seasonal Soups, it was a challenge to decide what to choose as everything sounded so good. As we considered our options, our handsome server Reed kept us nourished with a steady supply of delicious house roasted nuts. We finally decided on oysters, the Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad, Fiddlehead Soup and a delicious Smoked Speckled Cedar Creek Trout topped with a dollop of herring roe caviar and served with some mixed greens.

A Hendricks Martini with cucumber garnish

House roasted nuts with cashews, pistachios, almonds and dried cranberries

A lovely presentation of fresh bread and crispy flatbread

The Fifth Dinner Menu

The evening Amuse-Bouche

A thick, robust and delicious Fiddlehead Soup, which was the featured soup of the day

Heirloom Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad with puff pastry garnish

The chef's special appetizer and recommended by our server Lainne — the Smoked Specked Cedar Creek Trout with Herring Roe Caviar and mixed greens...delicious! 

Half a Dozen East Coast Oysters with fresh grated horseradish, lemon and mignonette sauce

Acclaimed for their exceptional steaks, it wasn't a surprise that most of our table succumbed to these tantalizing, tender and juicy temptations. Truly one of life's great pleasures, a perfectly seasoned and precisely grilled melt-in-your-mouth steak is a heavenly experience. With a choice of Flat Iron, New York Striploin, dry aged Boneless Rib Eye, 6oz or 8oz Filet Mignon topped with a selection of sauces from Bearnaise, Peppercorn, Wild Mushroom and more, the menu also features a Mixed Grill, Oven Roasted Half Chicken, Grilled Berkshire Pork Chop, Australian Rack of Lamb, as well as Market Fish, Lobster, Pasta and Risotto. A decadent list of outrageous side dishes makes the meal complete, such as the tower of Panko Crusted Onion Rings, Roasted Asparagus, Sautéed Wild Mushrooms and fabulously addictive Frites. Paired with a couple of bottles of delicious Barbera d'Alba wine from Piedmont, the evening was outstanding from start to finish. 

New York Striploin with Bernaise Sauce

A tantalizing tower of crisp and juicy Panko-Crusted Onion Rings

Thick spears of Roasted Aspararagus

A generous bowl of seasoned Frites

A delicious Barbera d'Alba wine from Piedmont paired beautifully with our steaks

Speckled Cedar Creek Trout with Broccolini

The Mixed Grill: Dry Aged Boneless Ribeye, Oven Roasted Chicken and Speckled Trout

A 6 oz Filet Mignon with Wild Mushroom Sauce

With one of our party, my brother, celebrating a significant birthday, it was incumbent on us to order some desserts, which wasn't a difficult decision to make, given the selection of fabulous home made desserts: Lemon Meringue Tart, Sticky Banana Cake, Baked Alaska and the chef's special, a S'More Brownie with ice cream and warm chocolate sauce — complete with a birthday candle! Having never had a Baked Alaska before, I didn't know what to expect and was amazed as Reed set the dessert alight with a cupful of cognac.

The Dessert and After-Dinner Drinks Menu

Baked Alaska set aflame with cognac

S'more Brownie with Iced Cream and Warm Chocolate Sauce, complete with 
a birthday candle and chocolatey "Happy Birthday Dave!"

'The Reed': Frangelico, Baileys and Kalhua over ice - dessert in a glass!

Embraced in a celebratory haze, we splurged and enjoyed some after dinner drinks. Not knowing what to choose, Reed said that he'd invent something for me and returned with a delicious concoction of Frangelico Hazelnut Liquor, Kalhua and Baileys over ice. Very very yummy. 

The nightclub on the main floor is booming after 11pm, and is a popular spot on weekends

Booking a private table in the club for an exclusive party would be fabulous 
and can even come with a private butler!

The Fifth is a hidden gem. A beautiful setting, lovely ambiance, fabulous food and exceptional service with an unwavering attention to detail sets the stage for an unforgettable evening, and one which we hope to repeat many more times. Next time though, we'll stay a little longer and finish our evening downstairs!

Le Canadien
Serves 1
Recipe courtesy of The Fifth Grill & Terrace

Wash an Old Fashioned glass with 1/8-ounce of Lagavulin, or a suitably smokey Islay scotch, and fill with ice. Set aside.

Combine in a mixing glass:
1/3 oz Maple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura
2 oz premium rye whiskey, such as Crown Royal LTD or Wisers' Small Batch

Add ice & stir well. Strain cocktail over the prepared glass, garnish with lemon peel & serve. Et voila: Le Canadien!