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Recipes

“Seriously we just want you to play with your food and have fun while becoming a better cook…”

Mexican Kitchen
Cartel and Chorizo Chili

Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 cups diced Spanish onions
1 cup diced red bell pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs. lean ground beef, pork or turkey
1 lb Pork chorizo sausage
1 – 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tbsp. Mexican Kitchen Cartel seasoning
2 cups unsalted stock – chicken or beef
1 15oz tins of black beans rinsed and drained

Method:
Preheat a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Cook the onions, peppers, and garlic in the oil until the onions are translucent, stirring often. Add the ground beef, chorizo and seasoning mix and continue to cook the mixture until meat begins to brown. Stir it often and use a spoon to break up the beef and chorizo.

Transfer the mixture over to a crock pot and stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and beans.  Cover with lid and set the crock pot on low for 6-8 hours stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle some chilli out onto a plate and taste it, adjust the seasoning to taste. Let the chilli for 30 minutes before serving.  Yields six portions.

The Origin of Rubs

 

Cultures are in part defined by their cuisine. Ingredients used in traditional preparations are typically regional in origin. How these foods are seasoned have been historically driven by the spice trade and depending on which lands were conquered it was often their spices that were claimed and taken among other items back home  and called their own.

 Pepper is the most popular spice in the world. For over 4000 years the berries of the piper family have been boiled, dried and ground into this pantry mainstay. Pepper is native to Southern India and was brought to Europe over trade routes established over land and later by sea.

 During the 15th century Turkish Ottomans conquered Eastern Europe and shut down trade routes ending imports of pepper. As supply and demand dictates, the price of pepper quickly soared and traded at par with gold.

When Columbus came back to Europe from the Americas he brought capsicum fruits to Europe which he had christened “peppers” as they remotely tasted like pepper and were to be an alternative to the expensive pepper which were dried and ground into powder known as paprika, the second most consumed spice, which was not well received as it was deemed a pepper for the poor. The Turk’s who controlled much of the trade of goods loved these new peppers and introduced them to Hungary.

 Hungarian herdsmen, known as gulyas marketed their Grey cattle all over Europe and would butcher the weaker cows on their drives to feed themselves. The beef would be liberally coated with paprika and dried for long-term packing, this practice has given way to what we now know as a spice rub. The beef would then be rehydrated and cooked in iron kettles called bogracs over the evening fires using foraged wild onions and caraway.  The soup that they prepared in their pots was called gulyáshús, which we now call goulash.

This traditional Hungarian meal quickly became a mainstay at the dinner table and not food of the herdsmen. It became one of Hungary’s cultural identifiers and was preserved along with their language while fighting for their independence from Austrian rule, the preparation of which was not to be Francophiled with wine, nor Germanic with the use of flour.

 Goulash can be prepared with beef, pork, or lamb using shoulder, shank and shin cuts which are high in collagen and act as a natural thickener. You may choose to add potatoes or macaroni to the following traditional recipe for Hungarian Goulash.

Hungarian Goulash

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. bacon fat or cooking oil

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 tbsp. Paprika

1 ½ pounds stew beef, sliced into strips

2 clove Garlic, minced

2 sweet red peppers, deseeded and thinly sliced

2 tbsp. tomato paste2 Tomatoes, diced

1 tsp. caraway seeds

1 ½ cups beef stock

1/3 cup sour cream

2 tbsp. flat leaf Parsley, chopped

Method:

Heat the fat over medium-high heat, in a Dutch oven. Stirring frequently, fry the onions in the fat until they begin to become lightly golden in colour. Remove pot from the stove and stir in the paprika. Add the meat and stir again until the meat is liberally coated with the mixture. Stir in the garlic, peppers, tomato paste, tomatoes, caraway and stock. Cover the pot with a lid and place it in a preheated oven at 350°f for 2 hours.

When done, stir in the sour cream and sprinkle with parsley. Season to taste with Chef Salt and serve.

 

 

 

 

Cajun Fried Chicken

Here are a couple of great ways to use our Reggae Rub and Kick Ass Cajun spice blends!

After the crash of the holiday season and the inconvenient adjustment to saving daylight our eating habits begin to shift as we begin to enter the darker months. Many retreat into their homes in search of comfort which often changes our eating habits. As winter begins to set in, we often take comfort in our food as well.

It is also a time for us to dust off the slow cookers and dig out the Dutch ovens as we delve into heartier meals. The longer slow cooking processes of comfort foods build anticipation for the next meal as their aromas. We are genetically wired to seek out more calorie-dense foods as food historically speaking was often scarce at best in winter and we sometimes need to put some meat on our bones for the cold weather ahead of us.

Beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and fish all taste better when cooked with their bones intact. Bones add flavor to foods, texture to meats composition and can enhance plate presentation. That said consumers ironically have sacrificed flavor and their health for convenience by purchasing boneless cuts of meat.

Bones are full of minerals, mainly calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. Bones also have connective tissue like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage still attached to them which contain glucosamine. When we removed bones from our diet we then increased our needs for nutritional supplements to help sustain our body’s needs for the raw materials that aid in bone and cartilage formation.

Bones are porous and transfer heat slowly which in turn slows down cooking times. The benefit to this is that meats will not cook as fast allowing the proteins to denature and relax which guarantees tender meat that is juicy and flavorful.

The following recipes for our Reggae Rub Chicken Wings and our Kick Ass Cajun Southern Fried Chicken are both bone in comfort food s that are easy to prepare and enjoyed by many. It is best served with corn, mashed potatoes, slaw, gravy and of course some fresh baked rolls to ensure that your plate is clean when you’re done.

Reggae Rub Chicken Wings
Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking.  Combine all of the remaining ingredients together in an mixing bowl and mix until evenly incorporated. Add the wings to the Reggae Rub mixture and toss them about to make sure they are liberally coated.

Reggae Rub Wings are best when grilled over charcoal!

For best the best possible flavour cook the wings on a pre-heated charcoal barbeque. If you don’t have charcoal you can use a gas grill, or if necessary you can roast them in the oven. Use a medium-high heat. On the barbecue they will take about 20-30 minutes in the oven at 425 °f you will need about f 45 minutes. More importantly you will need to ensure the chicken is cooked to a proper internal temperature of 74 °c / 165°f. This is best checked with a food thermometer. Serve immediately with a light beer like a citrus flavoured Hefeweizen. Serves 4-6 people depending on what else you set out on the table.

Kick Ass Cajun Fried Chicken

Ingredients:
1 whole chicken 2 -3 pounds
3 eggs
½ cup butter milk
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1-2 tsp. Kick Ass Cajun spice blend
A pinch of both salt and pepper
Vegetable oil or peanut oil, for frying

Method:
Using a knife break the chicken down into smaller cuts and pat the pieces dry with paper towel to remove any moisture.

Preheat your deep fryer to 350 °f and your oven to 200 °f.

In a medium size bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk and set aside. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, garlic and ginger powders with salt and pepper.

Dip the chicken pieces one at a time into the egg mixture, then evenly coat them in the flour mixture and gently submerge them into your preheated fryer. Make sure each piece of chicken has plenty of space to cook in the fryer without touching anything. If necessary fry the chicken in small batches and transfer the cooked pieces using tongs or a slotted spoon onto a baking tray line with a roasting rack in your preheated oven.

Fry the chicken until brown and crisp, about 10-12 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. More importantly you will need to ensure the chicken is cooked to a proper internal temperature of 74 °c / 165°f. This is best checked with a food thermometer.

 

Curry Chicken

 

Ingredients:
3 pounds chicken, bone in
1 lime, juiced
3 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry
2 whole scallions, sliced
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)
3  cups chicken stock

Method:
Rinse chicken meat thoroughly and rub lime juice over it, place meat in a bowl, then add Curry in a Hurry, scallions, onion and garlic. Leave to marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator, longer would be ideal. Heat the oil in a skillet until it is very hot, and sauté the meat until golden brown. Then add the marinade, tomatoes and coconut milk, if using, and simmer for approximately 3 more minutes. Add water, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 2 to 3 hours stirring occasionally until meat is tender.

West Indian Curry Goat
3-4 Tbsp Curry in a Hurry
140ml/5fl oz vegetable oil
4 tomatoes, chopped
2 onions, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Olive oil
Water or stock

Method:
Season the goat with the Curry in a Hurry at least 6-8hrs before using it.

Preheat oven to 150°C/300°F. Heat oil in a pan and cook the goat pieces until golden brown.

Soften the tomatoes, onions, peppers and garlic in some olive oil and add it to the meat. Immerse the ingredients in double their quantity of water or stock and bring to the boil.

Remove from heat and place in preheated oven for 1.5 hours, until goat is tender.

 

When ready, remove goat from pan, simmer sauce till reduced by half, then return meat to pan and serve with rice and peas.

 

Breaking (Bad) Bread

I’ve been told that you should not discuss religion or politics over dinner because it can lead to indigestion.  With today being the end of  Lent it may be hard to follow this rule because whatever your beliefs are there is a good chance you may enjoy food this weekend whose origins lie deeply within both of these topics. One of the most curious foods that I dare deliberate in this muse while skirting serious discord is bread.

The hot cross bun has been around for centuries but its story is full of political motives, legends and superstitions; a mighty feat for this little doughy, sticky- sweet, spiced yeast roll that is flecked with pieces of dried fruit and marked on top with a crucifix.

So great is the hot cross bun that even Queen Elizabeth I declared that the buns are sold strictly at Christmas, funerals and on Good Friday. Many of these baked goodies would find themselves hung in kitchens to protect the kitchen from the evils of baking of bad bread, burning bread and the formation of mold on your bread for a year at which time the bun would be replaced with a fresh one. Some claim that these buns will not go bad and can be hung for a year and still enjoyed.

Try the following multi-stage recipe for Hot Cross Buns which are fun to make with any little ones you have running around the house.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
2/3 cup warm water
1 packet of dried yeast
3 tbsp, granulated sugar
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Humble Pie spice blend
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup currants
Milk for brushing
Golden syrup
¾ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp. milk, plus extra if needed

Method:
In a small bowl, stir together the warm water, yeast, sugar and 1/2 cup of the flour. Set aside for 15 minutes. Heat the butter and milk together in the microwave until the butter has just melted; let it cool to room temperature before whisking in one egg.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining flour, salt, spices, orange zest and currants. Pour the yeast and the milk mixtures over top of the dry ingredients. Stir everything together until it starts to form a dough ball. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth.

Place the dough in an oiled mixing bowl and cover the dough with plastic wrap and set aside to let it rise to double in size.

Punch down the risen dough and divide it into 12 even sized pieces. Roll dough into balls, they should be about golf ball size. Place rolled balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a sharp knife cut a cross in the top of each bun. Leave buns to rise for until doubled in size.

Meanwhile make the icing to pipe in the cross with by stirring together the icing sugar and milk until it forms a thick pliable mixture that can be easily piped.   (add a few more drops of milk, if needed). Pour this into a small piping bag and pipe crosses on top of each bun, letting the icing set for an hour before serving.

Brush the risen buns all over with a little milk and bake them in a preheated oven at 350°F for 20 minutes and they are a nice golden brown. After they are out of the oven to cool, brush them with golden syrup and then pipe the icing into the cross.

 

 

Italian Scallion Spring lamb 

Lamb has always been associated with springtime. Traditionally the kids born in January would be ready for market in spring. Today improved animal husbandry has made lamb available year round.  The term Spring Lamb simply refers to a lamb between 3 and 5 months of age and a lamb is a sheep that is less than 1 year old.

Lambs are tender creatures allowing for most cuts to be cooked by dry heat methods such as grilling or roasting.  The exceptions to this would be that the shanks, neck, shoulder and blade chops which are always better cooked by moist heat methods, such as braising.

For roasting, nothing beats the leg. It is a tender cut, though not as tender as meat from the rib or sirloin. A whole leg will weigh between 5 and 9 pounds.

During the grilling months, lamb legs can be purchased butterflied.

The leg can be completely boned; it is often sold butterflied for grilling or boneless, rolled, and netted for roasting. This type of roast is perfect for stuffing as all you need to do is just the net, fill the cavity left by the bone with a savoury dressing, rub the leg with lots of garlic, Dijon mustard, rosemary and tie it up again.

Half legs of lamb are also sold; the shank end is less meaty and chewier; than the sirloin end. The whole sirloin, in particular, can be cut off the leg, boned, and rolled to make a 2-pound roast, just right for a small family or dinner party. To cook these roasts, follow the directions for whole legs and adjust the cooking times, using internal temperatures as your guide. The most economical choice is a full leg of lamb; ask the butcher to cut three or four 3/4 to 1-1/4 inch thick sirloin chops off the sirloin end. This gives you some nice chops for one meal and the remaining leg to roast for another.

Mediterranean Boneless Leg of Lamb
1 (5 pound) leg of lamb, deboned and butterflied
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tbsp. butter
2 cups crumbled Sheep’s milk feta cheese
2 cup toasted pine nuts
¼ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/8th cup Italian Scallion Spice Blend
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp. olive oil
Black pepper

Method:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Cut six 2-foot lengths of butcher’s twine. In a small frying pan, sauté shallots in butter until lightly browned. Transfer the shallots to a large bowl and allow them to cool. Mix in the feta, pine nuts, olives and Italian Scallion season only with pepper as there is probably enough salt from the feta.

Open the lamb leg onto your work surface with the inside facing up. Place a sheet of plastic wrap over lamb and pound with a meat mallet to flatten it out slightly making the meat more even in thickness. Remove the plastic wrap. Mound the stuffing mixture lengthwise along one side of lamb; roll up lamb over stuffing, tucking in the ends. Evenly space the 6 pieces of twine under the lamb and tie the roll firmly.

Rub the lamb roll with the oil. Place lamb in a roasting pan with a wire rack. Roast the lamb in a preheated oven at 400F for about 10 minutes or until the surface begins to brown. Lower the oven temperature to 325f and continue cooking for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until an internal temperature of 145f for medium rare doneness.  Remove roast from oven and let sit, cover loosely with foil at least 10 minutes. To serve, discard strings, and slice the roast to your desired thickness.

 

Kawartha Curry to go!!

Often when people hear the word curry they associate it with spicy food. The word curry refers to a sauce or gravy; whether it is spicy or not depends on your palate and if you choose to make it spicy by the addition of cayenne or other peppers.

Kawartha Butter Chicken Curry

Ingredients:
1 whole roasted chicken
2 – 3 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry, or more  
One pound tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
One large cooking onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup of butter
1/2 tsp. Kick Ass Cajun 
One tsp. Sugar (optional)
Salt to taste
Three quarters of a cup of heavy cream

Method:

With the bones left intact cut the chickens into pieces and reserve. In a medium to large size sauce pot combine our Curry in a Hurry with the tomatoes and onion. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Occasionally stir the mixture and cook it until the tomatoes become soft. Puree the tomatoes into a smooth sauce and push it through a sieve.  Return the sauce to the stove. Stir in the butter, cayenne, sugar and salt. Let the sauce simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Next add the chicken pieces. Let the chicken heat through and finish it by stirring in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your preference. Serve over rice.

 

 

Mexican Kitchen

Cartel Chipotle Dip

Ingredients:
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1- 2 tbsp. Mexican Kitchen Cartel spice blend

Method:
In a glass bowl, whisk all of the ingredients together. Cover and let the mixture rest for 4-6 hours before using as a dip, sandwich spread or salad dressing. Add more Mexican Kitchen Cartel spice blend to taste if needed

Baaad to the bone…

Goat meat is the most commonly eaten red meat in the world and the goat itself were the second animal after the dog to be domesticated over 12 000 years ago.

Goat meat still carries the reputation for being tough in texture with a strong, gamey flavour much like lamb use to be, but breeding, feeding and harvesting practices have changed greatly over the years and today’s menus see goat meat being served in a variety of ways which include braising, stewing, grilling, roasting and frying. It is also consumed raw similar to beef in tartar and Carpaccio preparations or dry cured as jerky.

Goat meat is leaner than both lamb and beef, making it a healthier red meat choice for consumers concerned with their cholesterol and fat intake.

The breed of goats most commonly used for meat production are the Boer goat which hails from South Africa. This breed of goat differs from dairy goat breeds like the Saanen, Alpine and Lamancha as it was bred for meat production and is a short legged stocky goat with a broader chest and thicker rump. Boer goats are traditionally harvested around six months of age and yield a 50 pound carcass with meat that is exceptionally mild as the animals have not reached sexual maturity. Goat meat is also referred to as cabrito, and kid.

So get yourself a fresh kid and cook it up in the following recipe.

Curry Goat
3 lb. Goat Meat cut into bite sized pieces
2 tbsp. cider vinegar
1 tbsp. Kick-Ass Cajun
1 ½ cups diced yellow onion
2 cloves Garlic minced
1 Scotch Bonnet pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2-4 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry
2 tbsp. Canola oil
2 cups potato cut into bite size pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
In a glass or non-reactive metal bowl combine together the vinegar with the Kick-Ass Cajun, onion, garlic, and Scotch bonnet pepper. Add the goat meat to the vinegar mixture and mix it together to coat all of the meat with the seasonings. Refrigerate the meat mixture, covered for 2 hours.

In a deep saucepan or large cast iron skillet heat the oil with the Curry in a Hurry over med-high heat, stirring frequently until the. Add the goat meat to the pan. Stir the meat while its cooking until it begins to brown. 3-5 minutes.

Reduce the heat to medium- low setting and stir in 3 cups of water. Cover the pot and let it simmer for 45-60 minutes.

Add the potatoes and let the mixture simmer for another 20-30 minutes until both the meat and potatoes soften. Serve immediately with fresh bread. Serves 6-8 people.

Curly or Flat leaf Parsley

Parsley is as synonymous as salt and pepper when it comes to cooking. Recipes often list parsley as an ingredient but rarely suggest whether one should choose from the flat or curly varieties.

Although the curly variety often shows up on plates as a garnish next to a slice of citrus or artfully rained down on a plate of monochromatic coloured food to make it appear more vibrant it is the flat leaf parsley that is preferred to use in recipes as it has a lively peppery flavour that holds up well when cooked. Flat leaf parsley looks very similar to cilantro so be wary as to which herb you are grabbing in the produce aisle because it seems that these two are often mixed together. For gardeners flat-leaf is easier to grow as it exceptionally forgiving to its exposure to varying amounts of rain and sunshine,

Curly leaf has a milder taste than flat leaf, but its flavor diminishes when heated, so it’s best used raw or added at the last minute to prepared food. Its crinkly makes it ideal to use in uncooked salsas, salad dressings and salads. When properly stored; refrigerated, rolled in paper towel and placed in an air tight bag it will stay fresh longer than flat leaf, and it’s easier to bunch into a ball for chopping.

A recipe may list parsley as an ingredient but it rarely will tell you which one to use but regardless of their differences, curly and flat leaf parsley can be used interchangeably.  I suggest you experiment with the two and you will find a difference in textures that can impact mouth feel which for some can be the deciding factor as to which parsley they prefer.

Most people use only the parsley leaves and discard the stems but these actually have a stronger flavour than the leaves and can be minced up before adding them to soups or stocks.

Both parsley varieties require a very thorough rinsing as they are best grown in a sandy soil, which if not rinsed will quickly dull your knife and your teeth.

Every so often you will also come across parsley root which looks like a parsnip but tastes more like a potato with parsley and is commonly found in European preparations of soups and stews. Parsnip is parsley’s closest relative.

Whether you choose to forage your parsley from your herb garden or the grocery store, try both flat and curly parsley in the following easy to make recipe for pesto which is great on pasta or with fish and chicken.

Presto Parsley Pesto

Ingredients:
4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup sliced unsalted, roasted almonds
1 tbsp. Italian Scallion
½ cup chopped fresh chives
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan

Method:
Meanwhile, pulse almonds in a food processor until smooth. Add parsley, chives, oil, and Parmesan; process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Without heating the pesto simply toss hot freshly cooked noodles in it before serving.
Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days

Curry in a Hurry Carrot Ginger Soup 

I’ve been housebound for 7 days now. I spent Valentine’s Day and the Family Day long weekend with the love of my life, in pajamas, cleaning up vomit and washing bed sheets as our one of our children battled the flu. Nothing says love or time well spent together as a family like a home full of sickness. As a result of our hibernation like behaviour I think I’m fair to say that the winter blahs have struck our home.

It wasn’t until my feeble daughter asked in the sweetest of child voices if I could prepare her favourite soup that I had a justified reason to leave the house to go pick up the necessary provisions to make a pot of carrot ginger soup.

The common orange carrots that we most frequently use originated in Holland when Dutch farmers cross bred yellow and red varieties of carrots during the 1500’s. This variety of carrot is also called a carotene carrot as it is the richest known vegetable source of vitamin A. It is also the sweetest carrot with a concentration of 5% naturally occurring sugars.

These carrots have been further hybridized over the past century to produce shorter fat carrots with a blunt root tip. It is believed that this makes for a better carrot that reduces the waste encountered in the long tapered root of ancestral varieties.

It must be noted that it is necessary to peel the outer layer of carrots as this skin is quite bitter and contains a concentration phenolic compounds which if not removed can turn carrots or the foods they are prepared with an unsightly brown colour.

Locally grown Ontario carrots are available year round, in most grocery stores. Some gardeners choose to leave their carrots in the ground year round and harvest them throughout the winter months as needed.

I like my carrots raw or steamed with butter but on typical Canadian winter days I like to eat my carrots in liquid form as a soup because it’s like eating a bowl of liquid sunshine. If you feel that carrot ginger soup has been over played; then why not vary the liquid you choose to use for the broth or the spices used to season it as you can easily create many variations of the following recipe for Curried carrot soup. By substituting coconut milk or orange juice for the heavy cream you can create some Caribbean flavours and a hint of cilantro, cinnamon or nutmeg will enhance the carrots aromatic nature.

Carrot Ginger Soup

Ingredients:
2 lbs carrots peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium red onion diced
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. Curry in a Hurry Spice Blend from The Spice Co.
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1 tbsp. of minced fresh ginger
2 cloves finely minced garlic
3 cups water or vegetable broth
Salt and pepper to taste
One-half cup heavy cream

Method:
In a soup pot heat the oil over medium-heat. Add the carrots and onions. Stirring frequently, cook this mixture until the onions become soft and clear, but do not allow them to brown. Next add the curry powder, cinnamon, ginger and garlic and cook a further 2-3 minutes to release their fragrant aromas. Add the water and bring pot to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until carrots are soft and breaking apart. This will take about 30 minutes. Remove from heat and using an immersion blender puree the soup to a smooth creamy consistency. If you do not have an immersion blender puree the soup in blender in small batches. If needed you can thin the soup with additional water or broth as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Italian Scallion Easter Ham

How to Ham-it-up this Easter Weekend!

A ham is a cut of pork that in its entirety contains all four muscles found in the hind leg of a pig. These muscles cover the hip and shank bones which when cooked impart a great deal of flavour into the ham.

The shank end of a ham has the thigh bone running right through the center of the meat. Shank meat is very easy to carve but tends to be a chewier cut of ham compared to the hip end which is much more difficult to carve due to the complicated structure of the hip’s joint and aitch bone.

Today most grocery stores sell hams that are fully-cooked. These processed hams have also been previously cured by dry aging, smoking or brined in salt and sugar. This style of ham is often packed with preservatives and nitrates. We do not cook these hams, we simply re-heat them. These processed hams should never be basted with their own pan drippings as it makes for an exceptionally salty ham. As convenient as these hams are to work with I find that they are often over salted and over-cooked with a texture that begs you to try and blow bubbles with it.  These pre-prepared hams are typically served with a sweet fruit, maple syrup or sugar glaze as the added sweetness balances the added saltiness found in processed hams.

A” leg of pork” or “fresh ham” is the names given to raw, uncured hind pig’s legs that have not been smoked, cured or previously cooked.  These hams are more commonly found in butcher shops and require you to fully cook them. Fresh hams are a delight to eat as they are moist like pork tenderloin and cook up like a pork roast with a rich pork flavour.

Cooking a fresh ham takes a little longer than processed hams. Most recipes state that a fresh ham is considered cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 160 °f /71 °c which causes the natural juices to be squeezed out meat fibers as they shrink or contract during the cooking process. This can cause your ham to be tough and dry. I recommend cooking your ham to an internal temperature of 170 °f /77 °c as this higher temperature will ensure that the collagen and connective tissues within the ham have melted which will disperse themselves into the dry meat fibres resulting in a juicy tender slice of ham.

For those of you wishing to enjoy a holiday weekend with a feast of distinction try a fresh ham  with the following recipe. Note that it is a 24 hour process for this recipe.

Roasted Fresh Ham

Ingredients:
8-12 lb. bone-in fresh half-ham, skin removed
1 lemon, zest and juice removed
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Italian Scallion Spice Blend
8 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup white wine vinegar

Method:
Using a boning knife, score the ham in its layer of fat in a diamond pattern, with the diamonds about an inch in size that are about ¼ of an inch deep.

Use a food processor to combine the lemon juice and zest, olive oil, rosemary, garlic, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper into a coarse paste. Rub the paste all over the ham. Store ham tightly covered in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

When it comes time to cook the ham; pre-heat your oven to 350°F. Place the ham fat side up on a wire rack lined roasting pan and cover the ham with foil. Cook the ham, covered for 3 hours. Remove foil and gently drizzle ham with vinegar.  Continue roasting the ham uncovered for another hour or more and baste it every 20 minutes, until the ham is well browned and reaches an internal temperature of 170 °f /77 °. Be sure to check the internal temperature in several places without touching any bones. Remove cooked ham from oven and allow it to rest on your carving board.

While the ham is resting make pan gravy in the roasting pan by skimming any fat off of the drippings and heating the pan on the stovetop over medium heat whisking in a glass of white wine and 1/2 cup chicken broth. Be sure to scrape all of the tasty bits off of the pan into the liquid. Thicken sauce with roux or cornstarch. Serve immediately to 8 -10 dinner guests.

Italian Scallion Focaccia

I’ve been told that you should not discuss religion or politics over dinner because it can lead to indigestion.  With today being the end of  Lent it may be hard to follow this rule because whatever your beliefs are there is a good chance you may enjoy food this weekend whose origins lie deeply within both of these topics. One of the most curios foods that I dare deliberate in this muse while skirting serious discord is bread.

The hot cross bun has been around for centuries but its story is full of political motives, legends and superstitions; a mighty feat for this little doughy, sticky- sweet, spiced yeast roll that is flecked with pieces of dried fruit and marked on top with a crucifix.

So great is the hot cross bun that even Queen Elizabeth I declared that the buns are sold strictly at Christmas, funerals and on Good Friday. Many of these baked goodies would find themselves hung in kitchens to protect the kitchen from the evils of baking of bad bread, burning bread and the formation of mold on your bread for a year at which time the bun would be replaced with a fresh one. Some claim that these buns will not go bad and can be hung for a year and still enjoyed.

Try the following multi-stage recipe for Hot Cross Buns which are fun to make with any little ones you have running around the house this holiday weekend.

Hot Cross Buns

Ingredients:
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 tbsp. Sugar
3 tbsp. Italian Scallion Seasoning
1 tbsp. avocado oil
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp. avocado oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup mozzarella

Method:

In a large mixing bowl combine the water, yeast, sugar, Italian Scallion Seasoning and let it rest for 5 minutes. Whisk in the 1st tbsp. of avocado oil.

Add the flour and gently work the ingredients together until it forms a dough. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl with the remaining 2 tbsp. of avocado oil, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 °F.

Punch dough down; and transfer it onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle. Use your fingers to poke dimples into the surface of the dough and then sprinkle with both cheeses

Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm with gobs of butter. Yes I said gobs …

 

Italian Scallion Tomato Sauce 

Ingredients:
1/4 cup cooking oil
3 ¼ cups sliced button mushrooms
1-¼ cups diced onions
2 tbsp. Italian Scallion
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
2-3 tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 cup red wine
2 x 28 oz tins diced tomatoes
1 bunch flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups green onions, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Over medium-high heat, saute all the above items in the cooking oil. Add ¼ cup of flour to form roux. Next stir in water,  tomato paste,  red wine and  diced tomatoes. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes then remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in  chopped parsley and  green onions. Serve hot over pasta.

If you really want to spice up this sauce and make a meaty feast we recommend adding a grilled Kick Ass Cajun Steak to it by simply doing the following…

Kick Ass Cajun Steak: Dredge sirloin in Cajun seasoning and grill to specified temperature, place 6-8 oz of tomato sauce in pan and gently heat, adding a handful of linguine and heating through, Present pasta in bowl, place steak, fanned out atop of the pasta, with chopped green onions and

 

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