Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sourdough Starter Pancakes

There are about a thousand recipes for pancakes on the internet and with about a thousand different ingredients to add to the batter (chocolate, kale, spelt...). Somehow though, it never occurred to me that you could (or even should) use sourdough starter as an ingredient. But why not? Why not add all that lovey developed flavor into the best weekend breakfast food? 

And when you're faced with a ravenous starter monster that lives in your fridge, you start thinking of ways to try and keep the beast at a reasonable volume. So we've been making everything with starter recently. And it seems pancakes are one of the most popular tried-and-true ways of using up some of that extra yeasty goodness hanging out in your fridge (or on your fridge, or wherever it is you keep your starter). The great thing about starter-based pancakes is that you can also use "not quite ready" starter in these. If you're just gotten your starter going and are dreading throwing away all that extra flour and water, these pancakes can be a great solution to the eternal waste problem that is keeping a sourdough starter. 

We've adopted and adapted the brilliant recipe from The Perfect Loaf for ours. There's really no magical ingredient or method to this (although the Skyr or Greek yogurt may be a bit unusual), which makes these pancakes so great to make whether you're trying to use up leftover starter or not. We opted for using white all-purpose bread flour in our recipe, but any flour will really do for this forgiving recipe.

Makes: 15-20 pancakes (enough for at least four, or for breakfast for a week!)

Time: 15 minutes, plus time for making the pancakes on the griddle 


2 eggs

1 cup milk

1 1/2 cup sourdough starter, unfed, straight from the fridge (or wherever you keep it; even not fully developed starters can work for this recipe) 

1 1/2 cups white all-purpose bread/hard flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp fine salt (e.g. table salt)

1/4 cup white granulated sugar

1/4 cup melted butter (make sure it's cooled a bit to avoid scrambling the eggs)

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup Skyr or Greek yogurt


With a fork, lightly beat the two eggs in a medium bowl. Add the milk sourdough starter, vanilla, and Skyr/Greek yogurt. Stir to mix everything together.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a separate bowl.

Add the dry mixture to the wet, mixing well. Stir in the (slightly cooled) melted butter. 

Wait about 30 minutes to allow the batter to develop. You may start to see small bubbles on the top of the batter as the starter gets to work on the flour and sugar.

Put a large pan or griddle on high heat and grease with butter. Drop batter onto the pan or griddle and cook until bubbles start to appear on the top (about 2 minutes). Then flip to cook the other side (1-2 minutes). Cook in batches, making sure not to crowd the griddle. 

Douse with maple syrup and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Rye Sourdough Pretzels with Salt & Gruyere

There have been quite a few pretzel recipes on this blog. I don't apologize in the slightest for this. Because the pretzel is a versatile thing- susceptible to endless variations. I will absolutely stand by our recipe for soft pretzels with beer cheese. But given our new sourdough starter interests, it was only natural that we try a pretzel recipe using it. If you don't have a starter on the go, you can get the whole step-by-step method here.

Today we're slightly amending a tried and true recipe from King Arthur's Flour, god among sourdough lovers. We've added just a couple twists to the original version, basically because we can't leave well enough alone. Specifically, we used our rye starter in this recipe instead of the traditional all purpose white flour version. We thought it gave the pretzels a bit more flavor and nuttiness. But if you don't happen to have a rye starter on the go, an all-purpose white flour starter will work jsut as well. We also like this recipe because it's done remarkably quickly- the pretzels only rise for about 45 minutes to an hour. And when you're impatient for pretzels, even that can seem like an eternity.

Makes: 12-15 pretzels

Time: 1 - 1 1/2 hours 


3/4 cup lukewarm water (it should feel about room temperature when you stick your finger in it)

1 cup unfed rye sourdough starter, straight out of the fridge

2 cups All-Purpose white flour

1 cup white strong/bread flour

1/4 cup skim dry milk

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For Topping

1 tablespoon white granulated sugar

2 tablespoons water

Sea or Rock Salt (to sprinkle on top, to taste)

1/4 cup grated gruyere cheese (or more!)


Using a stand mixer (or your hands if you're quite strong), mix the water, sourdough starter, the flours, the dry milk, sugar, butter, salt, and yeast together until you have a cohesive and smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with cling film or a kitchen towel. Let it rise for about 45 minutes to an hour. The rise will be pretty minimal.

Preheat your oven to 350 F.

Turn out the dough onto a greased work surface. Fold it gently to deflate it & divide it into 12 pieces. If you want to make sure your pretzels are even, try to make sure each weighs between 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 ounces.

Roll each piece of dough into a long thin rope, between 16-18 inches. Shape each rope into a pretzel.

Dissolve the sugar in the water and brush the tops of each pretzel. Apply the salt and the grated cheese to the tops according to taste.

Bake the pretzels for about 25-30 minutes, until they're light golden.

Remove the pretzels from the oven, adding more salt and cheese if you like before they cool.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Steak and Ale Pie

The hubbie and I celebrated our one-year anniversary this weekend (hence the intricate dough work in the above picture) and we decided that only the most British of dishes would help to ring in 365 days of wedded glory. That's right- we made a romantic Steak and Ale pie. Laugh all you want, but we have been lusting after these since we watched a dozen or so of them get made on The Great British Bake-Off. It also happens that we have demanding standards for our steak and ale pies. 

Now, many recipes will tell you to use a puff pastry- a light crumbly thing that you can just whack on the top of a steak and ale stew. No, no. If you're going to have a steak and ale pie, in my opinion the only real option is to do it with a lard-based hot water crust. Oh yes. Lard. Yes, it's fallen relatively out of fashion in recent years, but I argue that if you're already going down the meat-filled road that is a savory pie, why not add to that savory flavor by infusing it in the crust as well? I also find this to be an amazingly easy pastry to make. I hadn't made anything lard-based in years and this thing came out right the first time, no holes, no seepage. It also took roughly 3 minutes to put together (I mean the crust, the entire pie is a bit more of a time commitment). 

Serves: 4-6 as a hearty main course 

Time: 3 1/2 - 4 hours (I told you it was a time commitment)

Ingredients for the pie filling (pie crust recipe to follow)

6 tbsp all purpose white flour (although you can really use any flour here)

3 tsp sea salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 kg braising or stewing beef, chopped

30g or 2 tbsp (roughly) unsalted butter

2 tbsp vegetable oil

500 ml or so of a mild English Ale (we used Great Lakes Brewery's Pompous Ass English Ale)

1 large red onion, chopped

3 carrots, peeled and chopped

500 ml of strong beef stock (if you're using cubes or "stock jellies"- use one more then they recommend for the liquid amount)

2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar (light or dark)

4 bay leaves

3 tsp thyme

250g mushrooms- preferably brown or white (there's no need for fancy mushrooms here)

3 garlic cloves, sliced very thinly

3 tbsp lemon juice

Ingredients for the Hot Water Pastry Crust

250ml Water

100g Lard (or vegetable shortening if you really must)

15g salt

450g all purpose white flour

1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork


Mix the flour, sea salt, and black pepper in a medium bowl. Add the chopped beef and toss to coat.

In a large pan, add the butter and the vegetable oil and set on medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the beef in batches, frying until well browned on all sides (2-3 minutes). Set each batch aside on a paper towel-lined plate while you work the rest. You may need to add more butter and/or oil to the pan at stages to prevent the beef from sticking and/or burning. When you have worked your way through all the beef, add about 1/4 of the ale to the pan and swirl it around to release the flour and other bits that have stuck to the bottom. Pour this into a medium bowl and add all the cooked beef to it.

Our chosen ale for the pie. Appropriate, right?

Pour a bit more oil into the empty pan and add the onions and carrots, stirring occasionally. Add the rest of the beer along with the stock, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a simmer and leave it to reduce for approximately 1 hour. Just remember to give it a good stir every once in a while. 

Preheat the oven to 425 F. 

Stir in the mushrooms, garlic, and lemon juice and cook for another 30 minutes. If the filling looks dry, add some water (or more beer!). Leave this to cool completely (you can always stick it in the fridge to help along this process). 

It's time to start on the pastry. Put the water, lard, and salt in a small saucepan and heat on medium. Put the flour in a bowl, and once the water and lard are boiling, pour the mixture over the flour and stir together until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 2-3 minutes. Return 1/3 of the dough to the bowl and cover it with a kitchen towel to keep warm. You want the mixture to stay as warm as possible, as once it cools it will be tricky to work with. So, don't dawdle with the pastry! 

Take the 2/3 of the dough you still have on the floured work surface and roll out to a rough circle about 30cm or 10 inches in diameter. Roll this on to a rolling pin and lay inside a springform cake tin (approximately 23cm or 9 inches).
The pastry wrapped around the rolling pin, to be placed inside the springform tin.
Once in position in the tin, use your fingers to make sure the the pastry is moulded into all the corners. Let the excess come up and over the top of the tin and use any of this to fix any holes.

The pastry-filled tin.

Brush the tops and inside rim of the pastry with the beaten egg (be generous!). Then roll out the remaining pastry (the 1/3 you left in the bowl) to a diameter of roughly 28cm or 10 inches. Roll this on to the rolling pin and lay out on the pie. Use your fingers to join the base to the top of the pastry, makings a good seal. Use your fingers and thumb to crimp it closed. Brush the entire top with beaten egg (reserve any you don't use). Make some slashes with a kitchen knife in the top of the crust in order to let steam escape. If you're feeling artistic and have some pastry bits left over, you can always add them to the top for decoration like we did.

Bake for approximately 45 minutes. You can release the springform sides as soon as you take it out, the pastry should be cooked enough by now. Brush the sides of the pie with even more of the beaten egg and return the pie to the oven for a final 20 minutes until the whole pie is a rich brown.

The pie is a mighty hearty main course, but you might want to add some veggies as a side dish to break up the meatiness. We served ours with a side of brussels sprouts with buerre blanc sauce. Because why not?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Flatbread with Rosemary, Black Pepper, & Gruyere

We've been in a yeasty revolution at our house recently. Although I used to resist anything yeast-based with the rationale that it took too long and was just too "fiddly", now everything and anything we make seems to involve yeast. I originally turned to flatbreads based specifically on their lack of yeast and the speed which I could make them; however, here we are, in a brave new world, in which I find a flatbread dough quietly rising in the corner of the kitchen two hours before dinner. But there's a reason for all this yeasty madness. Yeast-based stuff is good. Like, really good. Worked properly, it gives a fluffy quality that most of my quick flatbreads, forced to rise with nothing but baking powder and my lazy intentions, failed to capture. So I happily throw this dough together, even on weeknights. It's just too good and, really, too easy not to. 

There are about a million variations on this recipe. We really like the combination of rosemary, pepper, and gruyere (mostly because it happened to be immediately available when we first made them), but really you can add anything to the basic dough. Just be careful of adding anything too wet to the dough, as that will affect its rise and overall consistency. 

Makes: About 8-10 flatbreads

Time: 15 minutes active time, plus 2 hours for rising


2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups warm water (about room temperature)

3 1/4 cups white bread flour (We used Whole Foods Hard All Purpose White Flour)

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the griddle

1 tablespoon ground black pepper

1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary, cut fine

1/4 cup gruyere cheese, shredded


In a medium bowl, combine the yeast and 3/4 cup warm water. Let it stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved and/or starts to look frothy. Add remaining 1/2 cup of the water, along with the flour, sugar, salt, black pepper, rosemary, and olive oil. Mix together until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until firm, about 3-4 minutes (this really shouldn't take long).

Lightly oil a bowl and place your kneaded dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place. Let it rise until doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.

Divide dough into roughly 8-10 pieces. Roll each dough out until it's a 1/5 inch (give or take) circle. Sprinkle the gruyere onto each piece. 

Heat a cast-iron skillet or other frying pan on high, coating with about 1 tablespoon or more of olive oil. Add each dough piece to griddle, making sure not to crowd them. Cook the flatbreads until they puff up slightly and start to bubble and brown (This usually takes about 1-2 minutes). Turn them over and continue to cook- about 1 minute more. 

Remove from the heat and continue cooking the rounds, adding more oil to the pan as needed. You don't want to add too much oil to the pan, otherwise you may end up "frying" your flatbreads rather than cooking them. Watch out for little bubbles around the sides of the flatbreads where the dough is interacting with the oil- this may mean you have too much oil in the pan.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Even though we're technically making the move out of "soup season", it's hard for me to turn down a good soup, whatever the time of year. Although most cauliflower soups make a puree out of the lovely white vegetable, I tried to keep most of the cauliflower intact in this version. You're left with a good chunky soup at the end of it, what some might call a stew, but really, for me it's just semantics. It's good stuff with good broth.  Don't skimp on the garnishes for this one- although they look like an odd combination, the blend of cheese, tarragon, and the "quick pickle" really elevate the flavors. This soup also works just as well as a vegetarian option, just remove the summer sausage & you're good to go. 

Serves: 2-4

Time: 1 hour


1 large head of cauliflower

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 yellow onion, diced

6 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tablespoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground mustard

1 tablespoon white pepper

2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

2 small parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped

3 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

2 Yukon potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (you want bite-size pieces here)

Breakfast or smoked summer sausage, sliced into bite-size pieces

6 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

1/2 cup red leaf lettuce

1/2 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1/4 cup minced fresh tarragon 

Ground black pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste


Divide the cauliflower in half, discarding the external green leaves. Reserve one half. With the other, roughly chop it into large segments. 

Turn on the broiler to high and lightly oil a baking sheet. Put the chopped cauliflower on the baking sheet and broil until the tips turn dark brown. You don't have to rotate or stir it- just leave it to char. Take it out and keep it close by to use later.

The charred cauliflower, post-broil. 

Now, take the other half of the cauliflower, the half you reserved. Slice it in half. With one half (this would be altogether 1/4 of the whole cauliflower), grate it into a small bowl.  Mix this with the lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Set aside. You should have 1/4 of your original cauliflower left. Slice it into big chunks.

Put the olive oil in a large soup pot. Heat it over medium. When hot, add the onion, garlic, coriander, mustard, white pepper, and cayenne. Cook until onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes.

Add the parsnips and the celery to the pot. Stir occasionally until everything softens- again, about 3-4 minutes. 

Now, add the your leftover sliced raw cauliflower and the potatoes. Let everything get settled and then add the stock. Increase the heat to medium-high, bring to a simmer and let cook until the potatoes are tender, about 15-18 minutes. 

Take approximately 2 cups of soup and transfer them (carefully!) to a blender to puree (you can also do this in a separate bowl with an immersion blender if you have one). Puree until smooth and then return the puree to the big soup pot. 

Taste the soup and season with salt and pepper.

Stir in the charred cauliflower and the sausage. Keep simmering until you're ready to eat.

When you're ready to eat, divide the lettuce into bowls. Ladle the soup on top of the lettuce and then top with the cheese, tarragon, and the lemony salted grated cauliflower. 

Spicy Asparagus with Walnuts

Everywhere you look right now, you find asparagus recipes. I suppose, for those in more "temperate" climates- say, most of the U.S. or even England, it's asparagus season, the signal to mid-spring. It's just warm enough for the little shoots to come busting out all over, leading to the wildly short frenzy that is asparagus season. Alas, in Ontario, where our last snow was but days away (and still looms on future forecasts), asparagus season truly must wait. But that doesn't mean that we still don't find asparagus popping up on our grocery shelves, brought in from our kindly neighbors to the south. And it's hard to resist, knowing that the weather should be cooperating and that it should feel like spring, even though it doesn't. 

This recipe may solve that hankering, at least for the time being. I'm not a huge fan of steamed asparagus & I'm always looking for other ways to prepare it & avoid the dreaded "woody" feel to uncooked stalks. This definitely does the trick; it's also a delightfully fast recipe, which makes it a great week night side dish. It also has spice and walnuts- more or less ticking all my favorite boxes. 

Serves: 2-4

Time: 15-20 minutes


1 bunch of asparagus, approximately 10-15 stalks (small-medium)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground fennel and/or fennel seeds

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger (or ginger powder)

A hearty grinding of fresh black pepper (to taste, or approximately 1 teaspoon)

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons dark soy sauce

2 small chiles, diced (such as serrano or bird's eye)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts (even better if they're toasted)

1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Salt, to taste

1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


Cut off woodsy bottoms of asparagus, then cut into approximately 2-inch pieces.

In a large wide saucepan or skillet, add vegetable oil and heat on high. When the oil is hot, add the asparagus and season with salt. Let these fry for a minute or so, then add the ground black pepper, the spices, garlic, ginger, sugar, chiles, soy sauce, and walnuts.

Cook on high for about 2 minutes, making sure everything is coated well. Cook until the asparagus is bright and green.

Transfer the asparagus and walnuts from the pan to a serving bowl & sprinkle lightly with sesame oil. Add the cilantro for garnish. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Red & White Chard with Tahini Sauce

Ah, swiss chard. One of those lovely "not quite spinach" leafy greens. Although it was a latecomer to our house when I was growing up, once we started replacing spinach with it in our recipes, we've barely looked back. Although it has a lovely flavor unto itself, the stems, so often thrown away, are where it's at. Unlike spinach, where the tiny little stems have barely any punch themselves, it's hard to miss a chard stem. Cooking them just takes a minute more than the leaves themselves and can add a great variation on texture to your dish, with all the lovely nutrients of the leaves.

This particular dish is all about textures. You have the blanched leaves of the chard (two colors none the less! Although you're welcome to simplify and go with either red or white), the stems, the thick yogurt sauce, and the little zings of pine nuts. If I could, I would put pine nuts in everything (and probably go broke in about 2 weeks- the little suckers are expensive!), but here, they balance out the leafiness of the chard and the heaviness of the yogurt sauce so very very well. Theoretically, you could throw these in, skipping the additional cooking step, but I don't recommend it. Just giving them a little color in the pan really elevates their flavor- they will pop through everything else so much more. And, as it's such a simple dish already, why skip over it?

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish (works great with salmon, as you can see!)


4 tbsp tahini paste

5 tbsp Greek yogurt (plain); although I find any thick plain yogurt works here (Skyr, which is increasingly available is also great to use)

3 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed if possible)

2 tbsp water

2 bunches of Swiss Chard (I went with one bunch each of red and white, either will work just fine on their own if you can't find one of the colors)

4 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

6 tbsp pine nuts

4 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 tbsp paprika

salt and black pepper, to taste


Make the yogurt sauce first. Combine the tahini, the yogurt, the lemon juice, 1 clove of garlic, a pinch of salt, and the water in a medium bowl. Whisk thoroughly until the ingredients come together in a smooth paste. Set aside.

With a sharp knife, cut the chard (including the stems) into wide strips, about 1 inch wide. Separate the stems from the leaves.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil & add the stems. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then remove to a colander. Run cold water over the stems to rinse well.

Add the leaves to the boiling water (you may have to do this in batches). Simmer for about a minute, until the leaves have become bright green and collapsed in the water. Remove them also to a colander and rinse well with cold water.

Drain the water from the stems and leaves as much as you can. You want them as dry as possible, but a little moisture won't hurt them for the next step.

Put 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan and place over medium heat. Once warm, add the pine nuts- stirring them until golden, about 3 minutes.

Remove them from the pan (a slotted spoon works best for this) and add 3 cloves of garlic to the pan.  Cook for about a minute or until golden.

Carefully and slowly, add in the wine- if you add this all at once, the sauce you are making may split. Once added, let the mixture reduce to about a third.

Return the chard (leaves & stems) and the other 2 tbsp of butter, and cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until the chard is warm. Add the paprika, salt and black pepper.

For serving, you can put all the chard and the pine nuts in a serving bowl and then top with the yogurt sauce. Or, you can divide the chard into individual bowls, letting each person add the pine nuts and yogurt for themselves. Either way, it's absolutely delicious!

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