Read an Excerpt
Pasta with Goat Cheese and Mushrooms
Rigatoni or other tube-like pastas are excellent with this sauce, but you could also use fettuccine or tagliatelle. Freestyle baked pasta dishes like this one are less fussy and labour-intensive than lasagna. Use your favourite combination of fresh mushrooms; I like a mix of shiitake, oyster and brown (cremini) mushrooms.
1 oz (30 g) dried porcini mushrooms
1 lb (500 g) rigatoni
1⁄4 cup butter
1⁄4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups soft goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 lb (500 g) mixed mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or pinch dried
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1⁄4 cup chopped parsley
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
SERVES 6 to 8
SOAK dried mushrooms in 1 cup hot water for 20 minutes. Strain, reserving soaking liquid. Rinse mushrooms.
PREHEAT oven to 350 F.
COOK pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water for 10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain well and return to pot.
PREPARE sauce while pasta is cooking by heating butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour and cook for 1 minute. Pour in milk. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in goat cheese and season with salt and pepper.
HEAT oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 2 minutes, or until softened. Add fresh mushrooms and thyme and cook for about 2 minutes, or until mushrooms begin to release liquid.
ADD garlic, dried mushrooms and mushroom-soaking liquid to skillet. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute. Stir in parsley and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
STIR cheese sauce and mushrooms into noodles along with 1⁄2 cup Parmesan. Spoon into a large oiled baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1⁄2 cup Parmesan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until heated through and browned.
Seared Scallop Ceviche
Ceviche is usually fresh raw fish that is “cooked” in lime juice. My version sears the scallops first to add texture and flavour to the dish. Don’t leave the scallops in the marinade for more than four hours, though, or they will overcook!
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb (500 g) sea scallops
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1⁄4 cup orange juice
1⁄2 cup lime juice
3⁄4 cup chopped red peppers
3⁄4 cup chopped red onions
2 tsp finely chopped jalapeño
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
HEAT oil in a large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add scallops and sauté for 1 minute per side, or until seared. Season with salt and pepper and cut into quarters.
COMBINE orange juice, lime juice, red peppers, onions, jalapeño, coriander and scallops in a bowl. Marinate for 1 to 4 hours, refrigerated, before serving.
Serve the scallops sprinkled with a little marinade on Boston lettuce.
Scallops actually grow in the beautiful fan-shaped shells that are often used for serving. In Europe scallops are sold in the shell with the roe attached; the roe is a real delicacy, and it’s a shame our scallops are not sold the same way. However, even shelled scallops usually include the muscle that attaches the scallop to the shell, and this muscle should be removed before cooking, as it is tough. You can easily pull it off with your fingers.
Scallops, like shrimp, come in many different sizes. Bay scallops are tiny and often tasteless. Other scallops are graded by size (the largest come about 6—10 to a pound).
Scallops should be shiny, bright and dry when you buy them.
This recipe makes twice the amount of dressing that you need, but it is a great creamy oil-free, low-calorie dressing to have on hand, and it keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.
Use your favourite winter lettuces in this salad.
4 cups watercress or torn escarole
1 cup torn radicchio
1 Belgian endive, sliced
1⁄2 cup chopped red onions
Low-Fat Dill and Garlic Dressing
1⁄2 tsp minced garlic
1⁄2 cup light sour cream
1⁄4 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Salt and fresh ground pepper
COMBINE watercress, radicchio, Belgian endive and onions in a bowl.
WHISK garlic, sour cream, buttermilk, lemon juice, dill, salt and pepper in a bowl. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding lemon juice and dill if necessary.
TOSS greens with about 1⁄2 cup dressing.
Elongated and elegant, Belgian endive is grown in dark storage rooms to keep it white. Its slight bitterness makes it a good match with other assertive lettuces such as radicchio and watercress. It becomes sweet when cooked, especially braised in a little stock with a bit of butter and sugar. It is grown from the chicory root–originally grown to be roasted and ground as a coffee substitute.
Chocolate Mousse with Saffron Foam
This is the ultimate chocolate mousse. It’s a takeoff on a chocolate dessert I had in Paris that was served with saffron foam. The saffron highlights the chocolate and adds a beautiful colour, but you could also serve the mousse with whipped cream.
8 oz (250 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup whipping cream
1⁄4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch saffron threads
1⁄2 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar
HEAT chocolate and cream in a heavy pot over low heat, stirring until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat.
COMBINE eggs and sugar in a metal bowl over simmering water (basically a big homemade double boiler) and beat with an electric mixer for 5 minutes, or until mixture is pale yellow and when you lift beaters, mixture forms a ribbon that takes 5 seconds to dissipate. Remove bowl from heat.
FOLD chocolate mixture into egg mixture. Mixture will be quite runny. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Mousse will thicken.
PREPARE saffron foam by heating saffron and 2 tbsp whipping cream in a small pot over low heat until cream is an orangey colour. Combine saffron cream with remaining cream and sugar. Beat until slightly airy and thick enough to coat a spoon.
SCOOP mousse onto a plate or glass serving dish and surround with foam.
My kitchen is the centre of my home – a nerve centre of warmth, good feelings and contentment. When friends and family come to visit, they invariably gravitate there for food and conversation. It isn’t a big kitchen, but it is inviting, colourful and comfortable.
My kitchen has become a part of other people’s lives, too, through my columns and features in the Globe and Mail and Food & Drink magazine. So I thought it would be a good idea to make my kitchen the focus of this new book. It is where I cook every day to create recipes and feed my family. It is both my work place and where my heart is.
When I was growing up, the kitchen was the pulse of the entire house – the place where I did my homework, where we all ate together, where family and close friends gathered. It took the place of today’s family room. But today many kitchens are not much more than showpieces, and buying prepared foods, ordering in and eating out have taken the place of home cooking.
Now things are changing. People are coming back into the kitchen. They want to learn more about cooking and to make it a pleasurable part of their lives. I see this trend in the feedback I receive from my readers, who are asking lots of questions about cooking techniques and ingredients. They also want to eat healthier food and maintain control over what goes into their mouths. Cooking school enrolments are rising, as are television shows that include “cooking school” segments.
So, in this book, in addition to recipes, I have included short explanations of techniques and ingredients to help make cooking easier and more enjoyable. If you were never sure what it meant to fold eggs, you’ll find out how in this book. Never sliced a bulb of fennel? Don’t know how to clean a leek? What to do with a roast that is still underdone in the middle? These questions and many more are answered here. (At the back of this book there is a general index as well as indexes of the culinary skills and ingredients that are explained throughout the book.)
I like to create easy, foolproof recipes that have a taste twist or that provide an unusual take on a traditional favourite. I travel a lot, so there are influences from India, Asia, South America, Europe and, always, my beloved Scotland. You’ll find everything from a very quick chicken curry to my latest favourites – tagliatelle with scallops infused with lemon and a cross-cuisine Malaysian beef stir-fry – to old standbys like a classic roast beef, the definitive Scottish oatmeal biscuit and the best-ever peach pie.
This book is a real reflection of my personal tastes, so you’ll find lots of the foods I love best – potatoes, mushrooms, green vegetables, meat and fish. You won’t find yeast breads or fussy and complicated desserts; though I was classically trained as a cook, running a cooking school, raising a family, writing books and columns and finding time for seven tiny grandchildren means I do not have the time or inclination to keep four kinds of homemade stock on hand (I only make chicken stock), I’m not at all opposed to using good commercial products (storebought meringues and lemon curd), and I’m always looking for shortcuts (from cookie-crumb dessert crusts to one of my favourite tricks – the chef technique of searing the main ingredient in an ovenproof skillet and sticking the pan straight into the oven to finish the cooking).
Time is always a factor for me, whether it involves cooking, cleanup or shopping. So almost all the ingredients in my recipes can be found at your local supermarket or health food store, and I’ve included readily available substitutes.
To bring you even further into my kitchen, all the photographs for this book were shot there, too, using my own serving dishes and equipment. The pictures are not necessarily what we call “beauty shots” in the profession – dishes prepared in professional kitchens with the help of food stylists and prop stylists and gussied up to look beautiful without much hope that a normal cook can recreate them in the home kitchen. The pictures in this book show exactly how the food looks in the pan or on the plate. Your food can look the same.
I consider it an honour to reach so many people through my recipes, and to receive feedback from readers through my website. I hope this book will help you gain the confidence and pleasure that come with cooking and eating well.