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September 2016

Canadian Recipes/ Featured

Best Italian plum cake ever!

Italian Plum Cake

I think Italian plums must be in season or something because I’m seeing Italian plum recipes everywhere on social media. For example, one of my favourite bloggers, Jillian Harris, posted an Italian plum galette recipe the other day. And as luck would have it, I received 1 lb of Italian plums in my organic produce bin from Body Fuel Organics last week.

Now I don’t know if I’m storing them incorrectly or if I’m not eating them fast enough or if organic Italian plums just go bad faster than normal ones, but every time I get Italian plums from Body Fuel Organics, I find that they get soft super quick and attract lots of fruit flies. And I very rarely grab a plum and eat it by itself, so more often than not I’m throwing away plums that I never got around to eating and I feel horrible about the food waste.

But that won’t be happening anymore! From now on, every time I get Italian plums in my organic produce bin, I will be making this amazing plum cake. This cake is so moist and the batter is perfectly seasoned with ground ginger and cinnamon. My husband and I ate half the cake the same day I made it, and then I froze the other half for when the baby comes. I know I won’t have time to bake as much as I want when this baby comes, and it’s going to be so nice to have some cake ready in the freezer!

Side note on how to freeze and reheat cake: To freeze cakes or muffins or any pastry, I wrap it tightly in a couple layers of plastic wrap, then I wrap it in a tight layer of tin foil, and then I seal it up in a ziplock bag. This might seem like overkill, but the point is to keep moisture out and prevent freezer burn. To reheat this cake, unwrap all the layers and bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees F.

Anyone else loving Italian plums? I’d love to hear how you are eating them! Give this Italian plum cake a try and let me know what you think.

Best Italian Plum Cake

Best Italian Plum Cake Recipe

Print Recipe
Serves: 6-8 Cooking Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 5 Italian plums, pitted and sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 tsp of white sugar to sprinkle on top of cake

Instructions

1

Grease a 9-inch springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

2

In a large bowl, beat together butter, white sugar and brown sugar until fluffy. (I just used my hand mixer).

3

Mix in eggs, one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Set aside.

4

In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients - flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt.

5

Slowly mix the dry ingredients into the butter/sugar/egg mixture, one cup at a time. Alternate adding one cup of flour mixture with a 1/4 cup of buttermilk and mix well with hand mixer until smooth.

6

Pour batter into the springform pan, smoothing the top.

7

Arrange plums however you like on the top, pressing slightly into the batter.

8

Sprinkle a tsp of white sugar all over the top of the cake.

9

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

10

Let cool in the pan for about 15-20 minutes before you remove the ring around the pan.

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Well, that was a rainy and dreary weekend in Regina! Thank god for good books and new episodes of Law & Order: SVU on Netflix.  And thank god for beef stews! You’ve all seen my post on the Irish beef stew, but this time around I decided to make a Vietnamese beef stew (or “bo kho” in Vietnamese).

I remember my mom making this when I was younger and I’ve always loved the heartiness and warmth of it. My mom always used fattier cuts of beef, but as you all know, I like leaner cuts of meat so I used 2 lbs of stewing beef bought at Sobeys (on sale this week!).

Now, there are a couple key differences between Vietnamese beef stews and the beef stews of other cultures (other than seasoning):  1) Vietnamese beef stews aren’t as thick as other stews. If you remember, in the Irish beef stew recipe, the stew is thickened near the end with a butter and flour mixture. Vietnamese beef stews are a little more soupy. 2) European beef stews are served over mashed potatoes. Vietnamese people did not mash their potatoes. Instead, Vietnamese beef stews are served with a thick, crusty loaf of French bread. France ruled Vietnam as a colony for hundreds of years, and you can see lots of French influence in Vietnamese cuisine. For example, Vietnamese “banh mi” (a sandwich served on a baguette), and desserts such as flan and pate a choux pastries. The French introduced bread to the Vietnamese people and this hearty beef stew is only completed by a nice loaf of French bread.

Now, this version of Vietnamese beef stew is a little spicy as I used two red chili peppers. My husband and I both like spicy foods, so this was fine for us, but if you don’t like things too spicy, just use one red chili pepper. There are a couple of spices in this recipe that some of you may not be familiar with and that’s Chinese five spice and star anise. These are common spices in Vietnamese cuisine and when you smell them, it will definitely remind you of Vietnamese broths and soups. You can find them at an Asian food store or grocery stores with well-stocked Asian aisles, like Superstore. I have never found them at Sobeys or Co-op.

Also, although this recipe requires some prep time, I love the fact that there are ‘breaks’ in there where the stew simmers and I can rest. First, I marinated the beef and set it aside. While it is marinating, I prep all the vegetables and gather all the ingredients. I like having all the ingredients prepped and gathered by the stove, as it’s not practical for me to waddle back and forth between the stove and the pantry multiple times anymore! Things could burn or overcook by the time I find the ingredient and make it back to the stove! So the prepping and gathering of ingredients took me about 20-30 minutes. It might be faster for you guys, as I’m moving pretty slow lately, but the beef doesn’t need to marinate for that long. After everything is prepped, the next stage is to brown the meat and throw most of the other ingredients in and let it simmer for 1 hour. That’s enough time to watch one episode of Law & Order or have a decent nap. After that hour is up, you throw in the potatoes and then there’s another 45 minutes of simmer time. That’s another episode or nap!

This was the perfect comfort meal for a rainy weekend! What is your favourite comfort meal for rainy days?

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Vietnamese Beef Stew (Bo Kho)

Print Recipe
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 2.5 - 3 hours

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of stewing beef, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 4 shallots, peeled and minced
  • 2 red chili peppers, deseeded and finely minced
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 4 carrots, peeled and chopped into thick 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 star anise
  • 2 1/2 cups of beef stock
  • 5 potatoes, peeled and quartered (or cubed into 2-3 inch pieces)

Instructions

1

Combine the beef, flour, Chinese five spice, pepper, garlic, soy sauce and sugar in a bowl and mix well. Set aside to marinate while you prep all the other vegetables and gather all the other ingredients.

2

Put the oil in a large dutch oven or pot and heat over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, lower the temperature to medium and brown the beef cubes.

3

Add the shallots and red chili peppers and fry for a couple of minutes.

4

Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, carrots, cinnamon stick, star anise and beef stock and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer on the low heat for one hour.

5

After an hour, add the potatoes, give the stew a stir, cover again, and continue to simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

6

Check the seasoning, add salt and pepper if needed, remove the cinnamon stick and star anise, and serve with a nice crusty loaf of French bread.

Featured/ Vietnamese Recipes

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Vietnamese meat dishes often have similar flavour profiles, and those intricate flavour profiles are often derived from expert seasoning and extended marinating times. This particular dish is my favourite because the flavours are in the same family as the Vietnamese Braised Pork and Eggs and the Lemongrass Grilled Pork recipes that I’ve posted before, but it does not require marinating time for the pork.

This recipe literally takes 15 minutes to prep and cook, and at 35 weeks pregnant, that is a huge blessing to me. My pregnant belly is in the way now, so I can’t stand close to the counter to comfortably prep ingredients. Standing for extended periods of time puts pressure and pain on my back and hips. Bending down to grab pots and pans and reaching up to grab plates or ingredients also introduce various types of pain. However, we still need to eat so I still need to cook, but I’ve been leaning towards two types of recipes lately – 1) recipes that take less than 15 minutes to prep and cook like this one or 2) ones that take some prep time but then I can leave on the stove to simmer for an hour or more while I take a nap, like my Irish Beef stew recipe. (I love naps!)

This recipe has a slight spicy kick to it, due to the red Asian chili pepper (I buy the little packets of red peppers at Ngoy Hoa, the Asian grocery store in Regina) and the Sriracha sauce. I recommend pairing it with a cold light beer. If you want to stick to the Asian theme, then try Tsingtao or Sapporo. Otherwise, just pair it with a Bud Light like my husband does. If you’re a wine drinker, spicy Asian dishes often pair well with a chilled sweet German Riesling. I don’t have any specific recommendations right now, but I will once I can drink again so stay tuned!

Serve with some hot fluffy jasmine rice and enjoy. Green onions would make a better tasting and better looking garnish, but I didn’t have any at home when I made this so I garnished with thinly sliced red onions as you can see in my pictures.

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

If anyone tries it with wine, please let me know what your recommendations are!

Quick Vietnamese Caramelized Pork

Print Recipe
Serves: 2 Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 lb pork, cubed into 1-inch pieces (I just buy any lean cut of pork that is on sale and cube it up, usually a pork roast of some kind)
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 1 tbsp ginger, either finely grated or finely minced
  • 1 red Asian chili pepper, deseeded and finely minced
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp and 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
  • Some green onions, diced, for garnish.

Instructions

1

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan over high heat and stirfry the pork until browned on all sides. This usually takes 5-6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to preserve the oil and juices in the pan and set the pork aside.

2

Turn the heat down to low and add the shallots, ginger and chili pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until they start to soften up. Add the sugar, 1 tbsp fish sauce and 1/2 cup water to the pan and stir everything together.

3

Bring to a boil, stirring, so the sugar dissolves, then return the pork to the pan.

4

Let it simmer at a low rolling boil for 10 minutes until the sauce thickens and coats the meat. Watch your stove temperature here - it doesn't need to be on high for it to be at a low rolling boil. I find that medium or medium low is enough to have the sauce bubbling consistently. If you leave your temperature on high, the sugar will burn and scorch.

5

Add in 1 tsp fish sauce and the 2 tsp of Sriracha and give it a final stir before removing it from the heat.

6

Sprinkle some green onions on top for garnish and serve with jasmine rice.