Author Archives: The Cooking spoon

Chicken and Corn Soup with crispy Bacon

We are so ready for soup season, this delicious chunky chicken and  corn soup is one of our favourites. It’s hearty, filling, comforting and loaded with veggies and lots of corn. Topped with some crumbled crispy bacon and served with crusty French bread, what’s not to love. It’s the perfect soup for this time of year using summer corn but also comforting enough for Fall.

Prep time : 10 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves : 6

INGREDIENTS:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine
  • 1 red bell pepper, cleaned and cut into dice (reserve some for serving)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into dice
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 leek, rinsed clean and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 stock cubes
  • 2  cups cooked and shredded chicken
  • 1 ½  cup corn kernels, drained (reserve some for serving)
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 8 rashers bacon, cooked crisp and drained on kitchen paper
  • Handful of chopped parsley to serve

INSTRUCTIONS:

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add onion, pepper, carrot, celery and leek. Cook on medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the flour and stir to combine completely before adding the stock a little at a time, stirring to combine as you add. Pour in all the stock.

Add 2 stock cubes, crumbled up and stir until dissolved.

Add the chicken and corn  and continue to cook until veggies are tender, about 15 minutes.  Finally add the cream and leave to simmer until the soup is piping hot.

To serve , ladle soup into pretty bowl and sprinkle with reserved parsley, red bell pepper, and corn. Crumble some bacon over the top and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Enjoy!

Myra

Strawberry Cheesecake mini Pies

Simple Strawberry Cheesecake mini Pies, are made with fresh strawberries, a quick cheesecake filling and brushed with a strawberry glaze. They come together in minutes and are so delicious.

You only have to bake the Pastry shells and the rest is done in a jiffy. I have used my Super Simple Pastry dough recipe, so once the shells are baked and cooled you just spread some cheesecake filling on top and layer with fresh strawberries. The shells could be baked the day before and stored in an air-tight container.
Serve as a dessert, snack or at parties. These are always great!

The pastry crust is a no-brainer and you can find the recipe here.

Makes 6 small tarts or one medium 20 cm / 8 inch


INGREDIENTS:

1 recipe super simple pastry crust, prepared all the way.
3 cups fresh Strawberries
2 tubs of cream cheese (400 gr/ about 1 3/4 cups)
3 tbsp. of milk of choice for loosening up the cream cheese
50 grams/ 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp strawberry jam diluted with water for drizzling on top, or honey.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Remove the crown from the Strawberries and cut them in half.
Place the cream cheese in a bowl and beat until soft, adding the milk to get to process started, add the vanilla extract and the confectioners sugar. Beat until combined and fluffy.
Spread 1/6th of the cream cheese filling in each mini pie, place some strawberries on top.
Mix the strawberry jam with a tablespoon or two of water and drizzle the glaze over the strawberries. You could also drizzle with some honey instead. Assemble the mini pies close to serving time, since the pastry shells might soften if you leave them filled overnight. Serve with whipped cream (optional).

Enjoy!

Lighter French Cassoulet

Cassoulet, the name of the earthenware dish in which it is served, is an aromatic, hearty bean and meat stew with some aromatic herbs and spices, the flavor is subtle and delicate, and really comforting.
The key to a perfect cassoulet is the slow cooking process that tenderizes the meat and the beans and infuses the stew with its rich flavor. Your house will be filled with an incredible aroma that will get anyones stomach rumbling as soon as they walk thru the door.
There are many varieties of Cassoulet depending on your meat choices. My personal preference is smoked sausage, bacon, pork and chicken. You could go for Duck confit, but I find it too heavy so I have opted for the chicken instead.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

• 2 fresh small ham hocks
• 5 oz. diced smoked Bacon
• Salt and freshly ground pepper
• 1 pounds dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight
• 2 small carrots, thinly sliced
• 1 medium onions, diced
• 1 celery stalk, sliced
• 2 Bay leaves
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
• 1 head of garlic, unpeeled, plus 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
• 1 glass of dry white wine
• 1 can chopped tomatoes
• 1/4 tsp. All spice
• 1 quart / 1 liter, chicken broth
• 4 parsley sprigs, 2 thyme sprigs and 2 bay leaf
• 4 chicken legs
• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
• 4 pork sausages, your favourite kind
• 1 smoked kielbasa or other smoked sausage, or 2 small ones

METHOD:

• In a bowl, cover the beans with 3 inches of water and soak overnight.
• Add the bacon and ham hocks to a very large frying pan or pot and brown them all over.
• Remove and set aside.
• Add the carrots, onions and celery and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden, about 7 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and bay leaves.
• Add the all spice.
• Add the glass of wine.
• Add the head of garlic and the tomatoes and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the broth and the herbs and bring to a boil.
• Add the beans to the pan and simmer until the beans are just tender, about 2 hours.
• Pick out the ham hocks. Cut the meats into bite-size pieces; discard the bones, skin and gristle. Pick out the head of garlic and reserve.
• Put the meat back in with the beans.
• Transfer the beans and liquid to a casserole dish
• Preheat the oven to 180 ° C / 350° F
• Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet.
• Season the chicken legs with salt and pepper.
• Add the sausages and chicken legs to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until browned all over.
• Nestle the sausages, the chicken and the kielbasa into the cassoulet.
• Put the garlic bulb in the middle.
• Bake the cassoulet for 1 hour longer, until it is richly browned on the surface. Transfer to a rack and let rest for at least 20 minutes before serving.
• Serve with plenty of crusty french bread.

Enjoy!

Quick Quiche with Ham, Broccoli, caramelized Onions and Basil

Quiche ham broccoli

This recipe for a super quick and easy Quiche is one of those recipes you’ll make time and time again.  I love a good fool-proof recipe that you can have on the table in 30 minutes or less.  Add a salad and voila, dinner is served.
I have made this Quiche with pre rolled ready made Puff pastry, which I consider a freezer/pantry essential. So this really comes together in no-time. You can vary the ingredients according to what you have (leftover) in your fridge too, should you not have ham or Broccoli.  Think seafood, meat, poultry, veggies,  cold cuts, you name it. In fact it’s a great way to use up your leftovers.  But for now, this is one of our favourite combos. Try it, you’ll see why.

INGREDIENTS:

1 Sheet ready made puff pastry
2 cups broccoli florets
4 oz/ 100 gr. cooked ham
4 oz./100 gr. grated cheese
2 medium onions
Some olive oil or butter
2 tsp. honey
Salt and pepper
A handful of fresh Basil
1 cup light cream
4 eggs

Quiche ham broccoli

INSTRUCTIONS:

Begin by defrosting your puff pastry if it is frozen.
Pre heat oven to 180C/350F.
Next, peel the onions, slice in half and cut into half rings.
Heat a frying pan to medium heat, add the butter or oil.  Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes,  add the honey and cook for a few more minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from heat and set aside.
Meanwhile cut broccoli into florets and steam in microwave for 3 minutes or in a pan of boiling water,  make sure to drain very well after so that there is no extra water.
Cut ham into cubes,or slice thinly.
Line a baking tin, about 8×8 inch/ 20×20 cm or 9×9 inch/22x22cm. with parchment paper.
Place the puff pastry in the tin making sure you go up the sides as well.
Divide onions, ham, broccoli and basil (reserve some for decorating) over the crust.
In a bowl beat the eggs with the cream, season generously and pour over the filling. Sprinkle  the cheese over the top. 
Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 -35 minutes or until set when you tap the side of the tin. It should wiggle just a tiny bit in the middle.
Serve immediately.
Enjoy!

The best Garlicky Herbs and Cheese Fries

We had these garlicky herbs and cheese fries for the first in New York last year and loved them so much that I knew I had to make them at home. 
It’s no rocket science really, just oven fries, with good seasoning and good melting cheese on top, but so good!

For the best crispy home made fries you need to parboil the potato chips first, I know it seems like a lot of trouble but it is totally worth it.

Serves: 4 as a side

INGREDIENTS:

2 lbs. potatoes, peeled and cut
2 tbsp. Olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. oregano, dried
1/2 tsp. rosemary, dried
1/4 cup Parmesan grated
1/4 cup strong cheese like cheddar or mature gouda
1/3 cup mozzarella grated.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Peel and cut your potatoes into fries, and rinse.
Bring a large pot of water to the boil,  add a good amount of salt.
Once its boiling, add the potato chips,  bring to a boil and cook for two minutes.
Drain well, and place potato chips on a tea towel to dry completely.
Meanwhile pre heat oven to 210 C,
Get a large baking tray out and place the potato chips on it, drizzle with the olive oil and toss to cover each fry. Season with salt.
Place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turn the fries over so the brown evenly and bake for another 20 minutes. Meanwhile mix the grated cheeses with the herbs. Quickly remove the tray from the oven, push the fries a bit to the middle of the tray with a wooden spoon and sprinkle with the herbs and cheese mix. Bake for 20 more minutes until melted and golden.
Eat straight away,  these are great with some Aïoli. Enjoy!

Oven baked Falafel with Dates and Pine nuts

Weekends call for easy food, and since it’s almost Friday aka movie night, I like to keep it simple, snack-like food that you can eat with your hands like Soft Tacos, Burgers or Pizza. Either way this recipe ticks all the boxes. You can make the Falafel in the morning and assemble the Pita’s in the evening when you’re ready to stream that movie.
These Falafels are baked in the oven, so virtually fat free, and super simple, also I have added some chopped dates for a little sweetness and toasted pine nuts for extra flavour.

INGREDIENTS FALAFEL;
• 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped fine
• 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
• 6 dates, stone removed and chopped
• 3 tbsp. Buckwheat flour or oat flour
• 3 tbsp. Almond flour
• 2 tbsp. nutritional Yeast (optional)
• 1 1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
• small handful fresh Coriander
• 1 tsp. Himalayan sea Salt
• 3 tbsp. Coconut oil
• 1 egg

• 3 cups cooked chickpeas

Pitas for serving, toppings like tomato slices, cooked beet slices, lettuce etc…

Sauce;
• 1/4 cup Aïoli
• 3/4 cup plain yoghurt
• 1/2 garlic, peeled and grated
• 1 tbsp. pomegranate Arils
• 1 tsp. olive oil

METHOD;
Toast pine nuts briefly for 3 minutes in a dry pan, set aside.
In a food processor add all the ingredients for the Falafel, except the chickpeas and pine nuts.
Pulse a few times and now add the chickpeas. Again pulse a few time, scrap down with a spatula, and pulse a gain. It should be mushy but with bite and a few chunks left for texture. Now mix in the pine nuts with your spatula. Transfer to a bowl.
Meanwhile heat the oven to 220° C / 428° F
Make little ping-pong ball sized balls with slightly wet hands.
Layer them out over a baking tray that has been lined with parchment paper.
Spray generously with olive oil and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning them over very carefully half way.
Make the sauce by stirring the ingredients together and sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the yogurt sauce, pour over a teaspoon of good olive oil.
Toast pita bread, split open and spread some dipping sauce over it. Stuff with lettuce and some veggeis and eat straight away.

Enjoy!

Whole Spelt Pizza with Chorizo, caramelized Onions and Basil

Homemade Pizza is one of my favorite foods to cook at home , especially on my Pizza stone. If you bake a lot of Pizza’s at home it is worth buying a Pizza stone and a Pizza peel, it makes life so much easier. An other great method, which is what I used to do before I had all the Pizza baking equipement was, turning the baking tray in your oven upside down, it works great too, I do recommend placing the Pizza on a piece of baking parchment before popping it into the oven with this method so it doesn’t stick. When using a Pizza stone I find that the best non-stick method is to use semolina or polenta for underneath the Pizza when placing on the stone.

The spelt Pizza dough is really delicious and it has this nutty flavour that we love. The combination of the spicy Chorizo with the sweetness of the caramelized onions is pure heaven.

Makes : 3 large Pizzas or 4 smaller ones.

Ingredients:

400 gr / 2.5 cups whole grain spelt
100 gr / 3/4 cups white spelt
1 tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
350 -375 ml / 1.5 – 1 3/4 cups warm water

1 onion, peeled and sliced
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
Salt and pepper

2 cups shredded Mozzarella

1 – 1 1/2 cup Marinara sauce
30-40 slices chorizo approx* SEE NOTE
Fresh basil

Instructions

If you are using a pizza stone, place it in the oven an hour before baking to heat up.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine flour, yeast and salt.
Turn on the mixer to slow and add warm water and olive oil. Add a little more water if it seems too dry or add a little more flour if it seems to wet.
Knead for 5 minutes.
Place in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film.
Let rise until double in bulk,  punch down and shape into ball again, place back in oiled bowl and cover.
Now place dough in fridge until ready to use.

To make the caramelized onions;
Heat a frying pan and add the olive oil,  add the sliced onions and cook for 5 minutes,  add the honey and cook until golden brown,  about 3 to 5 more minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.


Remove the dough from refrigerator at least one hour before using.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, I prefer to use semolina since this doesn’t stick to the baking stone.
Spread the Pizza base with marinara sauce, cover with a thin layer of the Mozzarella cheese then caramelized onions,  and then add some more cheese and divide the chorizo over the pizza. Lightly dust your pizza peel with semolina , gently lift the side of the Pizza and slide it under in one secure movement, transfer to oven. Alternatively, roll out on parchment paper and transfer to oven tray.
Bake at 230 for 10 to 12 minutes, turning the pizza half way. We like our Pizzas dark and crunchy but that is up to you.

*I always buy a whole Chorizo sausage and slice it myself, but do what works for you and depending on the size, you can use either more or less, these slices were small so we used 9 to ten slices on each Pizza.

Enjoy!

Steak au Poivre, Steak in a creamy green peppercorn sauce

Steak au Poivre or,  Steak in a creamy green Peppercorn sauce is a classic recipe that is easy to make at home and everyone loves. My version however is alcohol free, making it suitable for all eaters.
You really don’t have to go to a fancy restaurant to eat Steak au Poivre.
The classic version uses cognac for the sauce but I’ve made this non alcoholic version and so far no one has even noticed.  The secret ingredient is the Worcestershire sauce,  it’s a great addition of flavor if you don’t want to use alcohol or simply don’t have a bottle of cognac or brandy sitting around in the house. 
Cooking Steak is a personal thing and most chefs have their own tricks, I like to sear the heck out of mine to get the most caramelized meat flavor and I add the butter half way thru cooking so it doesn’t burn, but we do want that buttery flavor. If you have a cast iron skillet,  use it.

INGREDIENTS:

• 4 x 250 gr/8.8 oz Steaks, about 3cm/1.2 ” thick (I used Rib-eye)
• 1 tbsp. Black peppercorns, crushed or freshly ground coarse black pepper
• Salt
• 3 tbsp. Butter, divided into three
• a little neutral flavored olive oil for rubbing the meat
• 4 tbsp green peppercorns in brine
• 240 ml/1 cup heavy cream
• 60 ml/1/4 cup beef stock
• 7.5 ml/1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
• a few dashes of Frank’s hot sauce or Tabasco

INSTRUCTIONS:

Take the Steaks out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking,  so they can get to room temperature.
Crush the black peppercorns in a pestle and mortar until medium fine.
Pat the steaks dry and rub them all over with a little oil.
Season the steaks on both sides with the pepper and salt just before cooking.
Heat a (cast iron) skillet to piping hot.
Place the Steaks in the pan and don’t move them, after one minute turn them over and sear for one more minute.
Now sear the sides quickly, add one tablespoon of the butter, turn the heat to medium. Add another tablespoon of butter.
After two to three more minutes add the remaining butter, depending on how you want your steak doneadd the green peppercorns.  Remove the steaks to a (warm)* plate and cover with foil to rest while you finish the sauce.
Add the beef stock to the pan,  reduce by half and add the cream,  turning heat to low.
Add the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more ground pepper if you like.  Place the steaks on a serving platter or individual plates and cover with some of the sauce.
I always serve the steaks with French fries for mopping up the green peppercorn sauce, it’s so delicious.
*The steaks in the photographs were cooked 3 minutes each side.
** Since I always serve steaks with oven fries, I put the plates on top of the oven to warm up a bit. Serve straight away with some vegetables or roasted Broccoli like in the pictures

Enjoy!

Chocolate Dulce de Leche mini Tarts

Mini tarts filled with dulce de leche and chocolate Ganache, some caramelized nuts add a bit of crunch making this little dessert fit for a king. So simple to make and yet very big on flavour. There’s just something so cute and fun about having your own little cake or in this case mini tart. Perfect with some coffee or tea in the afternoon or as a dessert.

The pastry crust is a no-brainer and you can find the recipe here. I like to make pastry dough when I have some time to kill and pop it in the freezer so that I can make a pie at a moments notice, you should try it, it’s a game-changer.

Makes 6 small tarts or one medium 20 cm / 8 inch

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 recipe super simple pastry crust, prepared all the way.
  • 1/2 cup dark or semi sweet chocolate, chopped into pieces or chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup double cream
  • 1/2 cup dulce de leche (use any leftovers for the most amazing fancy coffee with whipped cream)
  • 1/2 cup nuts of choice (pecans, hazelnuts or walnuts are good…)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or maple syrup.

INSTRUCTIONS:

Start by making the crunchy nuts.

Heat a small frying pan on the stove to medium, toast the nuts stirring constantly for about 5 minutes util golden and toasted, add the sugar and do not stir any more. You can gently swirl the pan, as soon as the sugar has dissolved and coated the nuts pour them onto a piece of parchment paper and let them cool completely before chopping up.

Heat the double cream in a small sauce pan until small bubbles start to appear, remove from heat immediately. Add the chopped chocolate and let it melt for about 5 minutes, stir to combine.

Dived the dulce de leche over the tart shells, gently top with the chocolate ganache. Place the tarts in the refrigerator to firm up and ready to serve. Just before serving, chop up the nut brittle and sprinkle over the tarts.

Enjoy!

Super simple Pastry Dough

Super simple Pastry Dough!


And when I say simple, I mean really simple and pretty much fool proof and no fail. This flaky pastry dough keeps amazing in the fridge for a few days and also in the freezer for about a month. We always have some in the freezer.
Sometimes I prepare various tins filled with dough, pop them in the freezer so I can make a pie or mini tarts at a moments notice.
What I love about this recipe is that you can use it for both sweet or savoury pies.
The most important thing with pastry is that it has to be, and stay as cold as possible at all times until it goes into the oven. When using ice water use as little as possible, a high fat content is essential in the butter you use, 80% preferably. Cut the butter in small cubes and place it in the freezer for 5 minutes while you set up your food processor and get everything ready.
After that it’s five minutes work and your done.


INGREDIENTS:

– 200 gr / 7 oz. cold butter
– 300 gr / 10 1/2 oz all purpose flour
– a pinch of salt
– about two tablespoon of ice cold water (maybe three)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Fill a glas with ice cubes and add water.
2. Cut your butter into small cubes, place them in a bowl a place this in the freezer while you get out your flour and food processor.
Measure the flour and place in the bowl of the food processor. Add all the butter, divided evenly over the flour. You want to process as little as possible and as quickly as possible.
Add the pinch of salt.
Pulse the food processor a few times until the mixture resembles sand, add the ice water one tablespoon at a time. Pulse again. To test, grab some pastry between your fingers and press together, as soon as it holds , it’s ready. Tip out on to a work surface and shape into a ball. Wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before shaping.
When ready to use, roll out the pastry to desired shape, place in tin that has been oiled slightly, pierce the pastry with a fork and place a piece of parchment paper on top. Add some baking beans. Return to the refrigerator for another 30 minutes to cool completely before baking.
Bake for 15 minutes, then remove the parchment paper and baking beans and bake for for 5 more minutes.
Now they are ready to be filled with your favourite filling, sweet or savoury.
Enjoy!